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How It All Went Wrong

Discussion in 'Creative Archive' started by Reynald, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. (This is a short story I wrote for my Larping friends. It has their characters in it and it tells of how that world became the world we live in today. Most of it probably wont make sense but I hope you guys like it...)

    Part One​


    The city was oddly quiet. Usually, people bustled back and forth from night club to night club looking for a good time, taxis drove those too drunk or too tired to stay out back home while just barely staying within the traffic laws, and the dark alleys always contained the lowest of criminals the city had to offer. But not tonight. Tonight everything was still as if the city knew what was about to happen within its streets. Dark storm clouds growled angrily above, ready to unleash a hellish storm upon the sleeping city and only the bravest or most foolish stay outside to face it.

    'All clear on my end.'

    'Clear over here. Are you sure you saw them coming here?'

    'Of course I'm sure! I was checking the news on my phone and saw -'

    'Stay sharp, everyone.'

    A man walked down the empty street, oblivious and uncaring if any car decided to try and run him over. He walked with a purpose, light on his feet and ready to spring into action at any moment. A couple that had decided to enjoy each other’s company against the walls of a local bar stared at him as he passed. It wasn't how he was dressed for he wore a simple, fitting green t-shirt, rough brown slacks and combat boots. No, the couple was staring at the sword at his side and large coffin shaped shield that was strapped to his left arm. The man's eyes locked onto them, causing the couple to disjoint from each other and back away. His eyes glowed, literally glowed in the dark, brilliant silver. The man sighed and resumed his search. The world didn't always look like this. It wasn't filled with loud, cramped cities, steel wagons that required no horses, or insane flying contraptions. The land was much richer...more alive back then. But that was before-

    The clouds above roared, turning night into day as lightning crackled. Underneath the growling thunder, however, could be heard another roar. This one more animal, fiercer. The man looked up as lightning crashed again, illuminating the shape of what looked to be five very large birds. The man knew better though. The creatures from the past hadn't quietly vanished as people believed. No, they still roamed, and they still hunted. The creatures circled the city once before, with another loud roar, they descended into the streets. Two barreled straight towards the couple, who were now marveling at these exotic creatures.

    'Contact! We have two...correction three coming down right on top of us.' A female voice drifted through his head, 'Li Mei and I can handle these.'

    'Are you sure about that? I've got two here.' The man thought calmly, projecting his thoughts to the others. The creatures drew closer and now they could be seen for what they really were. They were large lizards, much like the dragons people would see on those...video whatever they were called. Only the man knew these were not dragons, no. They were a smaller cousin, actually. The lizards had two strong back legs and where their front legs would be were instead enormous leathery wings, which were tucked against the bodies as the creatures dived.

    'Please. Wyverns aren't even a problem for Maylin and me. Can you handle two?' A different female spoke this time. The man was going to reply when the woman screamed loudly; clutching the man she was with for safety.

    The man cursed to himself, 'I've got two humans to take care of. Get here when you can,' he thought rapidly as, with a smooth and easy motion, he drew the sword at his side and raced to protect the couple, "Get further in the alley!" The couple quickly complied, "What are those things?"

    The man smiled and chuckled lightly as he took up his age old stance in front of the alleyway, "Um...Well...They're called Wyverns...Just get her to safety."

    His pulse raced and time seemed to slow as the wyverns landed in the street and the rain started to fall. The creatures were too large to get into the alley and they had this strange silver eyed man to deal with if they wanted to get their prey. The couple fled, not bothering to wish the man luck or even stay and see. They just ran from the creatures that only existed in fantasy tales and nightmares. The man smiled as the wyverns growled in frustration. Good, he wanted their full attention. Rain soaked the streets and everything it touched as the creatures and warrior stared each other down, waiting for the other to strike.

    The attack happened quickly. Almost too quick for a normal human to perceive. The wyverns split and attacked from the left and the right, hoping to flank the man. The right lashed out with its tail, which was tipped with a large, poisonous, barb, while the left reached out to snap up its meal. The man dived forward, avoiding the tail and bite, and rolled to his feet just as the left lashed out with its own tail. The barb bounced dangerously off his shield, not even leaving a scratch on the wooden surface. As the right spun to continue its assault, the man lashed out with his sword and sliced the creature along its nose. Thunder rolled and lightning flashed as the creature reared back and roared in pain. With another roar the wyverns assaulted the man with renewed vigor.

    It was a brutal battle, but one that was already won. No matter how the wyverns attacked, the man blocked and struck back as fast as lightning. He was a blur of motion. Dodge, slash, block, parry, stab, slash. And the man was enjoying himself. A smile spread across his lips as he fought, enjoying the physical challenge of it all. Energy coursed through him, keeping him light on his feet as he leapt back and forth keeping the large lizards at bay. One of the Wyverns finally died after minutes of fighting. It roared and tried to tackle the man into a building. The man stepped to the side and, with a decisive laugh, brought his sword down onto its head and completely removed it. The body twitched once, twice, and then fell still. The other creature howled and dove over the body, knocking the man down. He narrowly avoided the barbed tail as it stabbed downward again and again, his shield keeping the razor sharp teeth away from his face. The man growled and decided to end this game, thrusting his sword up into the creature’s maw, ending its life. A normal man would be pinned under the weight of such a large creature, but he wasn't a normal man. He pushed against the creature with his legs and easily lifted it off of him.

    And all was quiet again in the sleeping city.

    The dead bodies slowly began to dissolve. Not decay as creatures from this age do. But it slowly dissolved as if it were made of sand, crumbling upon itself until nothing was left. The man breathed heavily, his sword dripping with blood. Blood that hissed and ate at the road wherever it landed, but left the sword untouched. He flicked the blood clean and sighed. Another thing that was forgotten when the world changed.

    'Everything is clear here. How are you, Shiren?'

    Shiren frowned, lost in thought as he sheathed his blade, 'I'm fine, Maylin. I'm going to get a drink...I'll reach you when I start to head back...'

    'Alright...Stay safe.'

    'I always do.'

    He looked about the street and was disgusted with how everything had changed. It didn't matter now though, the...Town Guard...or Police or whatever they were called now would be here soon and he had to leave. They weren't meant to be seen, just keep the creatures of old away from these new cities and their weak inhabitants. Shiren shrugged and, in an instant, disappeared as reality itself seemed to warp and wrap around him.

    He was now in front of a bar in a completely different city. This one was full of people living out their lives. People now relied on their insane contraptions to travel; they had forgotten how things used to be. Shiren walked inside and found a table in the corner. He enjoyed bars and pubs. They reminded him of the taverns back then. A voice caught his ear and Shiren looked to find a curly haired man sitting with two lovely women. The man's hair was tucked under a jester cap and his tattoos stuck out in the dim bar light. He had tattoos on his arms and neck. His left arm was covered in vines with a white flower on the back of his hand, his right was of the night sky though it had 3 silver claw marks on his wrist and ruby red lips on his neck. Shiren laughed to himself and ordered a drink, keeping his glowing eyes covered with a brown fedora tipped low. Puck seemed to enjoy the new times and was intent on living it to the fullest. A small man was watching Puck from across the bar. He held a pen and pad of paper in his hands and watched the Mystic with intensity. He was in for a surprise.

    Shiren pulled a strange series of necklaces out from under his t-shirt, which was slashed up in a few places. First, and foremost, was a small chain with a series of rings dangling from it along with a thin metal bangle. The next was an amber heart with flower petals inside. After that was a beaded necklace, a string of jade, turquoise, wood and bone. And last was a small, handmade necklace with a pendant on it. 'Live Life to the Fullest' was all it said. Shiren smiled and tried to stop tears from coming to his eyes. Everything he knew and loved was gone now. Sasha had gone with Chev to Fae...Aidyn, Rynn, and Sita were off trying to stop the further murder of Mother Tyrra...Moriken was mostly gone...killed or left after the world started to change...He rarely saw those that were still alive or ascended...

    His drink came and he accepted it with a smile, pulling out a few gold coins to hand the lady. She stared at him until Shiren realized his error and muttered, "Tyrra damn it..." pulling out the new form of currency that was preferred. The barmaid left him alone with his thoughts and his drink.

    Everyone wanted to change with the times. Shiren didn't. The world was too different for him. He didn't understand guns and cars and all these other insane things that the humans of today created. Things that used to only exist in Beronis. He was a fighter...he wanted and liked it back when everything was simple. He knew swords and knives and axes...not these new things people called weapons. He didn't understand "the internet" or "texting.” It was more confusing to him than magic. Shiren sighed as he held his necklaces, the last pieces keeping him tied to those he cares about, and drank deeply.

    The world used to be much different, go by a different name. Humans were far more impressive than what they were today and other, more fantastic, races roamed the land. Magic existed and being attacked by fantastic creatures was the normal. You had to be quick and intelligent to survive. That was until the war though...

    Until the world he knew, loved, and died for fell apart at the seams.
     
  2. Part Two​


    Before recorded history, when the land was young and whole, it went by another name. It’s true name, Tyrra. The continents of today were connected into one mass and fantastic races inhabited every corner of it. Cat people, Elves in all shapes and sizes, Dwarves, Orcs and more. The energies of Tyrra flowed and granted powerful magic and abilities to those with the ability to tap into it. Other energies, known as elements, existed. These energies gave Tyrra life and also granted powers to those wise enough. The world was young and amazing beasts that only existed in fairy tales roamed the land. Small villages and cities existed and were home to people with strong hearts and a sense of adventure. People who had to work for their food and survival. People who weren’t afraid of the dangers of the world and stood against the wrongs.

    One such village, called Ironpost, was home to such people. The village belonged to the Dwarves that lived in the vast mountains surrounding Ironpost. It was a simple, but cozy, village that was surrounded with natural beauty. The village was unfortunate, however, to have been built on the crossroads of the energies that created Tyrra. These roads were called lay lines and the sheer amount of energy when they crossed was enough to weaken the separation of Tyrra and the other worlds. This village, and others that had similar misfortunes, would be one of the first to witness the beginning of the end.

    “DeSTROYed!”

    Shiren snapped out of his daze and looked around. He had gotten lost in his thoughts again, a common occurrence. He was sitting outside of Ironpost’s tavern near the Celestial Circle’s pavilion. The circle hummed with warm, red energy against the cold stone beneath it. The village felt very devoid of adventurers today. Granted, it wasn’t a Market Day and although a few had finally decided to build homes, most adventurers just visited the small mountain village.

    “Nonsense. I transcend such things.”

    Shiren smiled boyishly. His friends, though much closer to his family, were sitting with him enjoying the afternoon. A curly haired man lazily sat in the circle, feet propped up onto an empty chair. His large, feathery eyebrows vibrated as he laughed at another man dressed in red, dragon scale armor. Tempo was assuming his customary smug pose; hands on his hips, feet spread apart and chin held high, which only made Ross laugh harder.

    “You just sound mad that your race is inferior to ours.”

    The large man to Shiren’s left spoke plainly. The man was built like a brick wall. His short hair and white feathery eyebrows were covered by a tan bandanna. Cynda grinned impishly as Tempo refused to answer, choosing to instead stand stoically smug. The group of friends laughed like kids and went back to harassing each other again. A tall, well dressed elf watched quietly from the edge of the circle of power. Sitting next to him was another elf, this one dressed mostly in fur and armor. Vine like designs crawled over her face and disappeared into her red hair. In her lap sat a small humanoid otter. The two had their arms draped over each other and the otter had her head nestled into the elf’s bosom.

    “Are you comfy in Rynn’s chest, Aidyn?” Kanashi asked smoothly, a small, playful smile on his lips. Aidyn just smiled and buried her head deeper, making a very content humming sound as she did so. Rynn laughed and her face turned a light shade of pink. Shiren smiled over at the two before turning to Kanashi, “You’re just jealous, Kanashi.” He flipped his hair in a joking manner as he spoke.

    “I know I am!” A man called as he slowly emerged from the very dirt under everyone’s feet. It was fairly normal for the group though and they watched as Zeaque’s wide brimmed hat appeared first, then the rest of him emerged. Zeaque joined the group and grabbed the last chair in the circle before depositing his massive bag of explosives carelessly onto the ground. No one was quite sure exactly how many explosives Zeaque ever had in his bag. Nor did anyone really care so long as he only blew up necessary things.

    “Welcome back. How did it go?” Shiren greeted his old friend by bumping his shield with Zeaque’s.

    “You get done whatever tiny wimpy baby thing you had to do?” Ross shifted into a lazier position as he spoke.

    “Yup. Just helped the Dwarves clear out a nasty section of their new mine.” Zeaque replied plainly as he put his gear off to the side, “They should be done within the week.”

    “What about the other problems we have been having? With the elementals and all?” Maylin spoke from her quiet perch on the pavilion’s railing. Her twin sister, Li Mei, just sat quietly and observed the group. Even though they didn’t look it, Shiren knew Moriken took their job as Town Guard about as seriously as could be expected. They were known for getting any job given to them done quickly, though their methods usually involved doing the insane. The sun started its descent from the heavens, bathing the forest surrounding the small village in a beautiful orange light.

    Kanashi stroked his goatee in thought, “I went and checked the house on the lay lines. So far nothing has disturbed it. There haven’t been any portals opening as far as anyone knows. Grimtooth says that the graveyards haven’t been tampered with and Illia has sent a few reports on the status of the Earth School. We should have some descent healers in the town finally.”

    Cynda scoffed, “I don’t see why you need healers when you have a perfectly good Utility Biata right here.” He slapped his chest loudly, which caused Shiren to smile a little. He loved listening to his friends banter back and forth.

    Sure enough, Tempo smiled slyly, “Tyrra Please. I’m the only healer you’ll ever need. I should be teaching that school, obviously.”

    “No offense, Tempo, but I do NOT want all of our healers to be as smug as you.” Aidyn retorted from the comfort of Rynn’s chest.

    “Impossible. No one can be as smug as me.”

    Shiren laughed and grinned, “Except for Vlad.”

    Tempo looked at Shiren like he had delivered a curse, “Please. The Chess Master couldn’t get on my level of smug.”

    Before the “debate” could get even more ridiculous, Kanashi interjected, “Alright. Alright, we have to get our patrols done before the sun sets. Let’s get to work.”

    Moriken groaned and complained teasingly as they went to work. Each split up to take care of their duties. Kanashi and Tempo had several appointments with the Dwarves to discuss plans and report on today’s events. Maylin and Li Mei took to patrolling the borders and watching for trouble. Ross and Cynda went to Tiapheres’, Gabriel the alchemist and golemancer’s wife, to practice more on their mental abilities. Zeaque retreated into Tyrra, no doubt to watch over the animals in the woods. Aidyn went back to trying to increase Ironpost’s Celestial Library. The Dwarves were on still edge about using and trusting Celestial Magic. Still, they trusted Moriken to take care of any problems. That left the whole of Ironpost to Rynn and Shiren. The two split up the work, Rynn taking the northern section while Shiren dealt with the south.

    The rest of the evening went quickly for Shiren and soon the sun set and revealed a breathtaking, starry night sky. The patrols through the village were swift and easy. Problems rarely occurred and those that did Shiren managed to solve in a quick and friendly manner. The work was good for Shiren, it kept his mind off of other, more depressing, thoughts. He poured himself into his work to keep his nightmares at bay. After the patrols, Shiren went to the Guard Barracks. He wanted to help train the new recruits joining the Guard. Zeaque officially was the General of the Army but Zeaque wasn’t a fighter. Shiren amused himself by thinking of what the Guard would be like if Zeaque trained them. It would be hilarious to see an entire army scatter, each trying to flank the enemy. Still, to avoid that happening, Shiren offered what he knew to help out.

    He led the recruits through a quick workout before taking time to get each soldier accustomed to fighting as a unit. He even took the time to spar with a few of the soldiers. Shiren enjoyed this part immensely. Shiren may not understand a lot of things, like women, politics, or magic, but fighting was the one thing he knew and where he truly felt himself. He loved every aspect of it, from the techniques and styles to actually being in the heat of combat. The fact that he was good at it didn’t satisfy him. Shiren was always looking for ways to improve his abilities.

    The sparring was enjoyably intense. They tried not to injure one another, using the flat of their blades and stopping short of actually drawing blood, and afterwards Shiren could feel his muscles growling in pain. He took his leave and made his way home, to the Moriken Estate. It was built in a secluded clearing in the forest. Massive stone walls protected the actual buildings and courtyard. The gate was open and inviting, it was only really closed when Ironpost or the Estate was threatened. A simple stone path cut the front courtyard in two as it led to the estate’s front door. Other buildings existed within the walls, a stable just inside the gate, a forge, library, and more. It even contained a training field.

    Shiren felt his spirits lift as he walked into his home. The flowers dotting the courtyard gave the estate a very pleasant smell as he made his way across the grass to the training fields. He usually took this time just before going to sleep to practice and work out. However, when he rounded the building, he was surprised at what he found waiting for him. Aidyn sat at the edge of the dueling circle on a knocked over log. She was watching Rynn and Maylin as they circled each other with weapons drawn.

    “Enjoying the show?” Shiren teased as he sat down next to Aidyn.

    Aidyn giggled and rested her head on his shoulder, “Of course! Two beautiful, almost naked, women fighting each other? What more could a girl want?” Sure enough, Shiren realized, both girls were wearing fitting, light, comfortable, mildly revealing clothing. He felt his face grow hot as he watched. Aidyn moved closer and watched as well, which only added to how red Shiren’s face was.

    Maylin crouched low behind her new coffin shield. It bore the same symbol as Shiren’s, a silver sword with two oak leaves crossing behind it. She was trying to get used to the feel of it since she normally used round shields. Rynn towered over Maylin as they circled each other. Despite her height, Rynn moved cautiously. She was smart, for what Maylin lacked in skill she made up for in sheer determination and ferocity. The two continued to circle, the tension rising until, finally, it snapped and the battle began.

    Rynn attacked first, trying to use her height advantage to reach around Maylin’s guard. Maylin hunched and blocked the blow before lashing out at Rynn’s open side. It almost landed until Rynn hopped back quickly. The blade sliced through clean air. Maylin should have pressed right then, keeping Rynn on her toes. But she decided to play defensively and retreated to behind her shield. The two began to circle each other again, waiting for an opening.

    “Got to get in there, Maylin.” Shiren called, trying to give advice, “Can’t give her time to recover! Rynn! You got to get squirrely if you want to hit her!” He laughed and wrapped his arm around Aidyn’s waist.

    “Yea! Get horizontal! Tear her shirt off!” Aidyn yelled loudly, sticking her tongue out in a flirty manner. Maylin and Rynn stopped their circling to look at Aidyn oddly, which only made her giggle loudly.

    The battle rejoined, this time much fiercer, as Maylin pressed into Rynn’s guard. She slashed high and low, trying to poke holes and land a blow on Rynn, keeping her on her toes. Rynn tried to hop, duck and move to avoid attacks. She even got off the ground to confuse Maylin’s guard and try to land a blow. The fight went back and forth. It was fairly even between the two and eventually they both stopped and consented that they were done with the practice.

    Shiren smiled and hopped up from his log, grabbing his gear, “Good job you two!” he jogged down into the dueling circle as he drew his sword. The next hour was filled with advice and taking turns to spar with him. After awhile Maylin and Rynn decided to gang up on Shiren, which only added to the challenge. By the end of the session all three were even more sore and exhausted. Aidyn joined after they were done and they all sat down in the grass and chatted.

    The night air was refreshing on Shiren’s bare skin. He took a deep breath and watched the stars above. Aidyn was lying between the other two girls, her arms wrapped around Maylin. They stayed like that for awhile, teasing and joking with one another and telling amusing stories. Shiren listened quietly and a gentle smile slowly affixed itself to his face. He wondered how Sasha was doing in Framlingarhalan, or Sita in Beronis. He let his mind wander as everyone enjoyed the night.

    Eventually everyone decided that it was time to go to sleep when Rynn realized that Aidyn and Maylin had dozed off against Shiren’s chest. They woke the girls up and everyone made their way into the estate. They said goodnight and retreated to their rooms. Shiren’s room was neat, orderly, and devoid of any real personal belongings. Shiren didn’t have much and what he kept what he did own on his person usually. There were a few furs scattered throughout the room. Rynn had put them there to make his room more inviting to guests and feel more like someone lived there. Shiren rested his shield against the wall nearest to his bed and placed his sword on the rack above it.

    After preparing for bed, Shiren climbed in and stared up at his ceiling. He wondered if the nightmares would come again or if he would actually sleep this night. He drifted off shortly after, his mind floating through random questions and thoughts before dreams finally took him.
     
  3. Part Three​


    Shiren blinked away the tears as they came to his eyes. Puck was gone now; he had left with that strange man who was watching him. The rush of memories had knocked Shiren into the past. How he missed those days when everything was simple. He loved his family, every single one of them, even Ross and that smug ass Tempo. Sure, they made fun of each other and were giant pains in the ass sometimes, but they always had his back when he needed it. Shiren wiped his eyes and downed the last of his drink. It reminded him of the ales back then. This “beer” or whatever it was called today didn’t sit well with him and the fruitier drinks didn’t have the same strength. He sighed, just another thing lost as time went on.

    He ordered another drink, thanking the lady, as his gaze locked onto the table in front of him and the memories drove him back into the past once again.

    Shiren awoke bright and early and got dressed. He threw on his green, double breasted vest, and strapped his sword belt on. The morning air was refreshing as the sun came just over the tree line, making his morning workout all the more enjoyable. The rest of Moriken would be getting up soon. They would meet him at the Tavern. Shiren greeted the man at the stables as he walked out of the Estate’s gate. The man was tall with short, dark hair and a goatee. He carried a shield and sword, though the glasses he wore made the man feel more like a scholar than a warrior. Hidoko was tending to the horses and returned Shiren’s greeting as he worked. Shiren left the estate and headed down the woodland path towards Ironpost.

    The forest in the morning was breathtakingly calm. Animals were just waking up, a few poking their heads out to look at Shiren as if he was an oddity. Overall, however, it was peaceful and left Shiren to his thoughts. He was halfway to Ironpost when a twig snapped from behind him to the left. His hearing had always been sharp and he picked out the disturbance from the other various noises of the forest. He kept walking as if nothing was different. “I know you’re there, Ma’am.” Shiren smiled to himself as he called out.

    “You’re getting better at minding your surroundings. Still, you missed the other.” A woman appeared from the tree to Shiren’s left while a man from his right. They both watched Shiren with their glowing silver eyes. Greater Humans, they were members of The Defenders. Shiren never told the others that he was a part of this group designed to protect the people of Tyrra. The woman had long brown hair and carried a sword and shield. She was wearing simple, but fitting armor. The man carried a two hander and was bald. He stood a good foot over Shiren and was built like a brick wall. The man didn’t wear any armor, not that he needed it, and instead wore just a ripped, sleeveless tunic and slacks.

    Shiren laughed and smiled at the woman, who was his instructor, “I doubt I’ll ever be able to get all of you, Ma’am.” He had never learned her name in all the time he knew her. She always just smiled and said that she would eventually tell him, “So, may I ask why you are here?”

    The woman showed a small smile, “To test you like always? No. Not today. We came to warn you today, Shiren. Something feels wrong about today. Just keep your eyes open and if you need us…Well…we’ll find you again.”

    Shiren nodded quietly. Another thing she never told him, how to contact The Defenders. He just resorted to walking into the woods by himself; they always seem to find him when he needed them. “Thank you. I’ll keep my eyes open. Anything else, Ma’am?”

    “That and remember to watch ALL your surroundings. It may cost you your head if you don’t.” The woman rapped him on the head with the flat of her sword to make a point. The two Greater Humans then disappeared behind the trees and vanished from sight.

    Shiren sighed and continued down the path. He wondered what would have The Defenders on edge. His mind raced through all of the possibilities as he walked. Eventually, the forest gave away to Ironpost. Small farmlands dotted the country side as he made his way down the main road to the walls of the village. The guards recognized him immediately and let him in. Shiren greeted them with a small and continued into town. He passed a large bell, meant only to be used if the guard were needed, and finally came in sight of the tavern. It was a decent sized, pleasant looking building. It had an inviting fireplace in the front and large, candle chandeliers hanging from the rafters. The left of the tavern opened up to a deck and a field. A stand-alone pavilion sat in the field to the left of the tavern where the Celestial Circle hummed contently.

    Shiren smiled like a child and made his way in. The tavern keep welcomed him warmly and offered him a drink, which he accepted gladly and ordered some breakfast. He looked around the room, not many people and citizens were up right now and those that were up were probably in the mines working. Still, he paused to listen to the conversations as his food was prepared. He paid the tavern keep when his food arrived and sat down to eat. He was about halfway done with his meal when something rushed him from behind, tackling him onto the table. Instinct took over and he tensed, ready to throw whoever had attacked him.

    “SHIREN! Hi there! How are you!?” A soft, almost childlike female voice spoke right into his ear.

    He recognized the voice and relaxed, “Hey there, Niz…” His voice was muffled by the eggs that were being forced into his face, “Um…I do need oxygen…”

    “Oh! Sowwy!” Niz giggled as she got off of him and sat down. Niz was dressed fairly plainly as usual, a simple blouse, corset, and skirt. A red bandanna held her hair behind her elf ears as two horns protruded from the bandanna. “You still didn’t answer my other questions, silly.” She teased.

    He opened his mouth to answer when another figure joined the conversation. A short, but well built, bi-pedal white tiger sat down in front of him. He wore elegant, black leather armor and two katanas hung from his sides. His black hair was pulled back and parts were adorned with beads and his tail was bobbed short. The tiger grinned, baring his fangs, “You got some egg on you, Shiren. I thought you humans used those things.” He pointed to the fork and knife on the table.

    Shiren laughed and wiped his face, “Yea. Normally I do unless Niz decides I need to be a pig.”

    “I said Sowwy!” Niz pouted.

    He smiled and gave Niz a small hug, “Its ok. I was just teasing. So, how have you two been?”

    Shakar shrugged, “Fine for the most part. We decided to stop by and see how Ironpost was doing before we made our way to Framlingarhalan. You?”

    Shiren copied Shakar’s shrug and rested his elbows on the table, “Same old. Same old. They like to keep me busy. Have you heard anything from Sasha?”

    Shakar frowned slightly, “She’s been busy with the guild and whatnot. I wouldn’t worry.” His reply was dodgy at best, but Shiren decided to not press the matter.

    More people started to show up after a while. A man wearing a tattered, purple overcoat walked into the tavern with a much shorter man at his side. The shorter man wore strange goggles on his head and dressed in outrageously bright clothing. Michael Drago gave Shiren a warm welcome before sauntering his way over to a couple of attractive women while Perego ordered some food for the both of them. Moriken appeared, finally, and took their usual spots in the Earth Circle next to the fireplace. Shiren was tempted to join in them but he disliked being in the circle. He liked to be able to move and do things, not sit around. Other people arrived and soon the tavern was filled with the comforting noise of conversation. Shiren finished his meal chatting with Shakar and Niz. He got up and returned his plate to be washed.

    Then it began. He remembered it like it was yesterday.

    Shiren turned and was staring at what appeared to be a ripple in the very air right in front of him. He knew what it was and dove for his shield and sword, which were sitting on the table. As he touched his weapons, the ripple became a tear in space and fire shot out. The tear grew until it became a six foot tall torrent of fire and heat. Everyone was scrambling for their weapons as Shiren stood in front of Niz defensively, Shakar leaping over the table to join him. Creatures began to pour out of the fire. They had arms and legs like a human, but these things were completely made out of fire. They had no face except for two orange glowing orbs for eyes. They were elementals, these from the plane of fire. The creatures stood about eight feet tall and didn’t waste any time. They rushed Shiren and Shakar as more poured out to attack the others.

    “Niz! Over the table to the circle!” Shiren called as he deflected the onslaught of attacks. A claw grazed his arm, sending a wave of pain and fire over his body. Shiren struck back when he could. He ducked, blocked, and dodged the attacks from the creatures that threatened to overwhelm him. Shakar was a blur of weapons as he tried to hold them off. Niz made a loud, eeping sound and scrambled over the table. She almost made it to the circle before another tear opened. Icy air flowed out of this one as other humanoid like creatures emerged, these made entirely of ice. Moriken leapt into action, forcing the creatures away from Niz.

    ‘Why aren’t they attacking each other?!’ Shiren thought as he was forced back and away from Shakar. His body burned from where the elementals’ claws had landed and he limped backwards, trying to get some breathing space. Fire and Ice were from opposite planes of existence. Normally they despised one another and strove to destroy the other above all else. But these…these were fighting alongside each other, working to kill everyone. Michael and Perego were forced into a corner, fighting for their lives. The elementals cut down every citizen that ran into their path. They had to do something or everyone would die. Shiren growled and fought back with renewed vigor. He slashed and stabbed like lightning, forcing the creatures back inch by inch. Suddenly, they vanished in a puff of flame as a sword was driven through each of their backs. Zeaque and Cynda grinned at him before separating to take advantage of the confusion. Shiren nodded and dove back into the fray.

    The fight seemed to last for hours. Aidyn stood upon a table and rained magical death upon anything that threatened her, her hands ablaze with eldritch energy. Maylin and Li Mei created paths of destruction as they fought as fighter and healer. Ross grabbed onto Shiren’s back and the two moved like a unit, systematically killing one after another. But the portals didn’t close, and the creatures didn’t stop pouring out. “FALL BACK!” Kanashi cried and, with a flourish, cut down two elementals that came at him. He nimbly flipped over a table and avoided three other creatures who charged him, “Get everyone you can and fall back to the Estate!”

    Shiren panted, he was tired. His arm burned as he cut down creature after creature in front of him. They weren’t getting the doorway, not from him. He and Rynn protected the people as they fled behind them, trying to get outside and to safety. Bigger elementals poured from the portals and pounded into Shiren and Rynn’s defenses. One creature emerged from the ice portal, reared back its head and roared and a massive blast of icy energy rushed from it towards Rynn. Shiren barely saw it in time and threw her out of the tavern.

    Blinding white, icy energy filled his vision as something punched him in the chest. He tumbled through the air, seeing only flying wood, the clear blue sky, and then the ground coming to meet him. His body howled in pain as he rolled and bounced along the ground before finally coming to a stop roughly against a tree. Someone was shouting his name. Why couldn’t he see? His body groaned as he tried to move it. ‘Come on, Shiren. Get up. You’re still needed. Come ON! GET! UP!’ No matter how much he shouted at himself, his body wouldn’t react. Suddenly energy surged through his body, causing his skin to itch. He recognized it as healing and felt his body respond. He surged to his feet, stumbled and reached out to balance himself. Hands grabbed him. Soft, furry hands. That voice was talking to him again, who was it? Shiren shook his head and looked at his healer, a short orange Gorbe in a white blouse and dark skirt. He knew her. He coughed and groaned, “Thanks Illia…” She smiled before rushing off after a large barbarian, Grimtooth. Shiren looked around and was horrified at what he saw.

    If there was anything to describe what the humans of today called Hell. This would be it.

    What he saw wasn’t a war. It wasn’t two armies clashed together in heated combat. No. What he saw was a massacre, chaos incarnate. Elementals of every shape and size battled the adventurers and killed indiscriminately. Chaos, Order, Fire, Ice…all the elements were there battling alongside each other. The Town Guard, The Defenders…everyone he knew was locked in brutal combat. What was worse, there were some people who were fighting WITH the elementals, not against them. Massive blasts of elemental energy struck the battlefield like artillery. Shiren tried to take it all in but it was too much. He needed to act. He needed to help, somehow. Energy welled up inside him, surging through his veins, till something unlocked in him. His senses kicked into overdrive and everything became sharper. He felt ALIVE, invincible. His body vibrated with the urge to act, to move. And he was willing, even happy, to oblige. Time seemed to slow as Shiren’s transform activated and he rushed into battle.

    The battle was a blur for Shiren as he fought and killed everything in his path. People described later that he looked terrifying; his mouth fixed in a fierce some snarl as he moved from one enemy to the next faster than any normal person could move. ‘Damn! Come on! Faster! Where’s the next one?!’ Shiren’s mind raced as he fought, ignoring the thousands of burns and wounds that he received in the process. But it wasn’t enough. It didn’t matter how many he cut down, the elementals would return to their plane and rejoin the fight instead of dying. They were losing, they could be killed and the enemy could not. He watched people die, transform as they took their final death, and throw themselves back into the battle. He saw a squad of guard vanish under an artillery strike of lightning. And still he fought on, trying to win. Trying to save everyone.

    The fought for their lives. Fought through the forest and forced the enemy back as everyone retreated into Moriken Estate. And Shiren didn’t slow down, didn’t quit. His transform fueled his passion, his want to protect, and his body reacted. He felt a strong pair of hands grab his shoulders and spin him about so he was staring his instructor in the eyes. She was burned and cut, but she still stood as if the world couldn’t crush her. She was saying something. Why was she talking? He needed to get out there and fight! The instructor drew her hand back and slapped him, hard, “Shiren! Clear your head! Get inside and figure a way out of this! We’ll hold them off! GO!” He opened his mouth to argue when she lifted him off the ground and hurled him into the Estate’s gates, closing them as he rolled to his feet. The Defenders created a wall in front of the gate. A wall of swords, magic, and shields and they fought like today was their last day on Tyrra.

    Shiren stumbled through the courtyard, his right leg barely supporting him, and he made his way into the War Room of the Estate. The War Room was a large, open room with a circular table in the middle. Charts, maps, battle plans, all sorts of papers littered the table. The room was filled with people, some tending to the wounded while others, including Kanashi and Zeaque, surrounded a map of Solus and were yelling at one another. Illia rushed over to him, asking if he needed healing. He shrugged it off which only caused her to glare at him. “There are others worse off…get them first…” He said quietly as he made his way to the table, ending the argument.

    “Ok. So we know how to get out of here. Where are we going from there?” Kanashi asked calmly, rubbing his temples.

    “We should go to Framlingar…whatever its name is!” Drago demanded as he slammed his fists on the table, “That or Beronis. My daughters are out there, Kanashi!”

    “Beronis should be fine.” Shakar said plainly, “It’s away from the lay lines and Lord Alistair can handle anything thrown at him.”

    Shiren coughed, he tasted blood, and leaned against the table for support, “Alright. How are we getting out of here, again?”

    Zeaque looked up at him and smiled, relieved, “Good, you made it. Thought you would stay out with the others.”

    Before he could answer a large explosion shook the Estate. Then another. Cynda flinched visibly at each impact; something that Shiren has never seen him do before. “Artillery strikes, clever bastards.” Cynda muttered as he moved from one wounded to the next, dressing any wounds that weren’t healed.

    “Tempo is going to the library now with a few others. They are going to get the scrolls and components and we are going to Spirit Walk out of here. Just trying to decide on where.” Kanashi sighed, trying to keep his composure. The arguments started up again. This was ridiculous!

    “HEY!” Shiren bellowed, quieting the room, “We don’t know why they are attacking. We have adventurers siding with them and THEY can’t die! And you are all bickering!” He looked around the room before resting on Zeaque, “Can you do your little Tyrran walk thing and figure out what is the best option?”

    Zeaque took off his hat and ran a finger through his hair, “Framlingarhalan hasn’t been hit, yet. But they also have no idea what is coming their way.”

    “That settles it, then.” Shiren stated in a matter of fact tone.

    Kanashi nodded, “Agreed. Maybe we can get everyone together and fight back. Or at least hold them off.”

    “Any idea why they are –“

    “I CAN’T FIND NIZ!” Illia cried as she scanned the crowds of people again. Everyone quickly joined the search but found that she was right, Niz wasn’t anywhere in sight.

    Shakar growled, “We have to look for her!”

    “It is too dangerous to go out there, Shakar. Me think it would be suicide.” Grimtooth said quietly.

    Shakar didn’t accept that. He paced and growled, his hands flexing for action. Shiren understood, he felt the same way. His transform was still up and Shiren had to burn the energy that was coursing through him before it burned him up. Hidoko raced through the door, “I found her! She’s pinned down under some rubble!”

    Shiren managed to grab Shakar just as he was leaving, “Hold on. Don’t be stupid. Shakar look at me.” Shakar thrashed in his grip but he held on, trying to hold his attention, “Shakar! We aren’t leaving her. I’ll go with you. Cynda, you still have some potions?” Cynda nodded, “Hell Yea.” and slapped his vest before joining them. Aidyn and Maylin looked at him worriedly. He knew they thought he was going out there to die, but he had to try. He smiled reassuringly, “Don’t worry. We’ll get her and be back safe. Kanashi, have Tempo ready to cast the ritual just as we get inside. Judging by the explosions -” The room rattled dangerously, knocking everyone off balance, “We don’t have a lot of time. Let’s go!” Kanashi nodded and began issuing orders as Shiren and the others raced out of the Estate into the courtyard.

    The estate was in ruins. Elemental artillery rained down, destroying everything in its path. Shiren couldn’t see if The Defenders were still fighting, there was too much dust and rubble in the way. Shakar sniffed the thick air and grabbed Shiren, pulling him in a direction. He must have caught Niz’s scent. A couple elementals appeared in their path. Shakar roared and leapt at them as Shiren and Cynda tackled the others. The fight was over quickly and the rescue team moved on. They crawled over rubble, ducked under a fallen section of the building and found Niz. She was pinned under a statue that had been blown off of the wall. She was nearly in tears when she saw them and cried out. Shiren and the others moved to help.

    “Cynda, grab there. Shakar, grab right there. I’ll take the middle. Alright…on three…THREE!” Shiren groaned, his leg threatening to give out on him, as he and the others lifted. The statue barely moved as they pulled.

    ‘A little more…come on…’

    A roar tore through the air. A roar that was unlike anything Shiren had ever heard. It was coming from the house that rested on the lay lines. Everything seemed to stop as they looked in that direction. At first, there was nothing to see. The ground started to rumble and it felt as though Tyrra herself was howling in pain. Something was coming.

    Something big.

    Shiren only got a glimpse of it that first time. But he would always remember what it looked like. It stood easily thirty stories tall with pitch black scales that seemed to absorb the light around it. It looked like the panthers that people now admire in the zoos, only completely covered in dragon scales. Where its eyes should have been were instead orbs that changed color and they burned with hatred. Reality itself was warping around this creature by its very presence. It roared again and all of Tyrra shook as the creature tore at the ground, trying to reach the lay lines. The air rippled and the ground shook and cracked as the creature dug. It was a horrifying experience. As if it sensed them, its head snapped up and it glared right at the Estate before howling. The air distorted around its maw and a blast of…nothing…tore through the air, warping space around it, towards the Estate. Shiren knew what it was and was horrified.

    It was Void.

    “We need to hurry! PULL!” Shiren called as he dug into the ground, lifting with all his might. The others seemed to reach the same conclusion as Shiren and pulled with renewed vigor. The statue slowly responded, too slow. The blast was moving closer, they needed to be gone. Shiren roared and pulled, causing the statue to move just enough for Niz to wiggle free. He and Shakar grabbed her and pulled Niz to her feet.

    The world went dark as an explosion kicked Shiren into the air. His body screamed as the energy seemed to tear at his very existence. He couldn’t remember if he yelled out in pain. He only remembered the solid impact of the ground and someone pulling him to his feet. When his vision cleared, he looked for the others. He saw everyone was alive, Aidyn and Maylin were holding him up. Niz was holding Shakar, who was also looking around. His left eye was missing entirely. Blood poured from the wound, staining his fur. Shiren looked for Cynda.
    His body was back at the statue, burned and eaten away by the creature’s blast.

    ‘No…NO! NO! NO!’

    Shiren yelled out, his vocal cords tearing as he pulled at Maylin and Aidyn, “LET ME GO! WE HAVE TO GET HIM!”

    Shakar saw it too and roared in pain and anger as he pulled at Niz, who was crying into his back. She was muttering to herself. The three girls slowly pulled them back to the estate. He was too weak to break free. They couldn’t leave him! Tears streamed from his eyes as the doors closed and hid Cynda’s body from sight. Shiren clung to the girls as they made their way into the War Room. ‘Cynda is gone…’ He barely acknowledged anything. ‘He can’t be gone…’ He didn’t see the large Earth Circle they were standing in. The world seemed to fade away as Tempo completed the ritual.

    When the world reappeared, they were in a different room. The room was fairly small, but open. A small desk sat to Shiren’s right along with a couple filing cabinets. Pictures rested on top of them. He knew he recognized them, but he didn’t care. His friend was gone, and it was his fault. As soon as they appeared, Niz fell to her knees and cried, clutching her stomach. A dark elf stared at them, her white hair neat and tidy. Her large, blue butterfly wings fluttered in alarm as she hurried to let everyone out of the circle. People were talking, Shiren didn’t hear them. Blood pounded in his ears as he stared at the floor. Sasha was saying something to Shakar, probably about his eye.

    Shiren felt the energy that had been sustaining him rush away with his transform, along with his own as soon as he left the circle. His transform put too high a demand on his body, it demanded rest. The multiple wounds from his battle re-opened and his nerves suddenly screamed in pain as he fell forward, blood oozing from his wounds. Someone shouted his name and hands grabbed him as darkness crept in and the world ceased to exist.

    ‘I’m sorry, Cynda…’
     
  4. Part Four​


    ‘Damn bird. Had to go and die…’ Shiren thought as he emptied his entire glass in one gulp. He glared at the glass like it was responsible for it all. He had never been a drinker back then. He never tried to actually get drunk. But now…now he just wanted to forget. But he couldn’t forget, his ascended form couldn’t get drunk and the memories were burned into his mind. He could hear the gypsies crying at the thought. A sad smile spread as he thought about the gypsies he knew and missed. It was getting late, not that Shiren minded. The bar was open all night and he was being quiet enough for no one to notice. The waitress brought him another glass without him even asking. She must have seen his pain and wanted to help. She smiled at him kindly as he thanked her.

    He stared at the darkness outside as his mind slipped back in time again.

    Shiren fell for what felt like an eternity. Fell into the darkness of his mind. He tried to resist, tried to get back to the world that needed him, but his body was too battered, too weak. But still he fought, even as the nightmares he knew would come assaulted him. Nightmares that he ran from every day. He saw the people he loved being butchered in front of his eyes. They all begged for him to save them and blamed him when he didn’t. Cynda died over and over in his mind, threatening to overwhelm him. He saw a beautiful, raven haired, woman beckon to him. Her eyes made his head fuzzy as she pulled him in to devour another part of his spirit. The same woman drawing in power as his friends died around him, only to get back up and die again. No matter how hard he fought he couldn’t help them. He remembered months of pain as he made a deal to save everyone. Voices drifted around him, whispering things from another, darker part of his life. Things he wanted to forget. He was lying on the cold floor next to that same raven haired woman. She was apologizing for all that she had done to him. Countless battles rushed around him. He felt every wound, every burn, and every ounce of pain he ever received. He screamed at the darkness-

    -And screamed out loud as he woke up.

    He sat up as hands grabbed him. Someone was talking to him. He reacted without thought, only the instinct to drive away the nightmares and pain. He slipped from the persons grasp and shoved them away into the wall across the room. The person raised their arms to defend themselves. Years of fighter instinct took over as he broke through the defenses and attacked. Whoever it was, they barely fought. They only tried to defend. Shiren slapped aside the raised arms and grabbed the person’s throat, forcing them against the wall, and squeezed.

    “Shiren…” The person coughed, trying to knock away the hand that threatened to crush his life, “Shiren…take it easy, brother…It’s me…” Another cough.

    The voice stunned Shiren and a chill ran down his back as if someone poured ice water over his head. His vision cleared and he looked at who he attacked. Pigtails, piercings, tattoos all over his body, insanely colorful clothing. Shiren knew this man and staggered back, releasing his neck. He shook his head, “I’m sorry, Chev…I’m sorry…” He kept apologizing repeatedly. Everyone called him Kaushal now, the new name he chose for himself. But to Shiren he would always be Chevalier. As the adrenaline faded, pain surged through his body, forcing him back onto the bed.

    Chev rubbed his throat and smiled slightly, “It’s alright. You were pretty banged up. How are you feeling?”

    “Sore…” Shiren said softly. His whole body ached. The muscles around an age old scar tensed, making sitting uncomfortable. It was amusing, of all the scars he had and injuries he suffered, he never wanted to lose that particular scar that was caused by a light switch. It was the only thing he had to remind him of his old home, Vargus. It was gone now, glassed by those trying to save it. Shiren shook his head and looked back up at Chev, “Sorry…”

    Chev laughed and pulled up a chair, “I said you are fine. You had people worried you know.”

    “How long was I out?”

    “About two days. Sasha and the others helped move you after you passed out. They healed you as best they could but…well we all know how your transform is. You must have pushed yourself hard.”

    Shiren shivered as the events of Ironpost rushed over him, “Yea…”

    “You thrashed around a few times. People took turns watching you while you were out. I guess I got the lucky card, huh.”

    Shiren flinched and his gaze fell to the floor, “Sorry…”

    “You. Are. Fine, Shiren. No harm done.”

    Pain raced across Shiren’s body as he stood up. The world tilted a little and threatened to knock him back down. Chev took a tentative step towards him but stopped as Shiren managed to stay on his feet, “I’m alright…Just need to take a walk…”

    Chev nodded and left Shiren to get dressed. He paused at the doorway, “The girls are worried about you. I would go to them first.” And with that, he left.

    Someone had been kind enough to leave his sword and shield resting beside his bed. If standing was painful, getting dressed was even more so. His body felt sluggish and groaned every time he twisted a way it didn’t like. Shiren grabbed his gear and walked out of the guild into Framlingarhalan’s Castle. The town was very spread out, the castle sitting out in an open field well away from the tavern and fort used as an outpost. People milled about the courtyard as they prepared for something. Barricades were being placed and Shiren could see Zeaque carefully walking outside the front of the castle, his large bag slung over his shoulder. Why weren’t they being overrun with elementals yet? Surely the creatures would have rifted or somehow appeared already and they would be fighting for their lives again.

    People greeted Shiren as he passed and a few voiced that they were glad he was back on his feet. He returned the greetings and thanked them for their worry. The survivors of Ironpost looked haggard, like they hadn’t slept since the assault, but moved with a purpose. They weren’t going to be beaten a second time, they weren’t going to lose more friends and family. Shiren shared their determination. He wanted to get back in the action as soon as possible. But he had other things to handle first. He found Aidyn first. Or, rather, she found him. He was heading towards the castle’s front gate when a blur of brown hit him in the chest. He groaned a little but wrapped his arms around Aidyn.

    “Sorry.” She said softly as she untangled herself from him.

    He grinned, “Its fine. Just a little sore. Where’s Maylin? And everyone else?”

    Aidyn smiled up at him and wrapped her arms around him again, resting her head against his chest, “Maylin is with Rynn on the front lines. Sasha is around here somewhere. We are getting ready for another attack…” He voiced died softly, full of worry.

    Shiren squeezed her and tilted her head up, “We’ll be fine. We’re prepared this time.” He smiled crookedly and winked, “Plus I’m here. We’ll be fine.”

    Aidyn smiled wider and shook her head before punching him lightly on the chest, “Just shut up.”

    Shiren mocked being severely hurt by her punch and they laughed. The pair parted, Aidyn had to gather supplies from the Guild Halls for the coming fight, and Shiren made his way to the front lines. He saw a few others patrolling the top of the castle walls. They were keeping a sharp eye for any signs of the coming army. Maylin and Rynn sat just outside the front doors, talking with one another.

    “Hey” Shiren called as he walked up to them. The girls turned and were immediately on their feet, turning to him. He flinched and prepared for the assault of how he could have done better or how he was stupid for rushing out there. But it never came. They had all lost a friend and didn’t want to berate one another or put blame. The two instead just quietly hugged him, which he returned gladly.

    “I’m glad you’re alright…” Maylin said quietly against his chest. Rynn didn’t say anything, just held Shiren tighter as she buried her head into his shoulder.

    “Of course I am. It’ll take more than that to kill me…” He joked softly. He knew it was a dumb thing to say but it brought a smile to their faces and that’s all that mattered. They stayed like that for a minute longer before separating, “Where’s Sasha, Sorsha, and the others? I haven’t seen them walking around.”

    Rynn shrugged slightly, “Rynn see Sorsha go into the Hammer Barracks. Rynn think that is where Kanashi went as well, they are doing some kind of strategizing.”

    “Tiapheres and The Count did something similar to the barrier in Ironpost, only for elementals. They can’t rift in but…well they can walk in so it’s only a matter of time.” Maylin stated as she watched the fields in front of the castle for any enemies.

    Shiren nodded, “Yea. We’ll deal with it when the time comes. I’m going to see what all is going on.”

    “Stay safe.” Maylin smiled. Rynn gave him another hug.

    “I always do.” Shiren grinned in return. He waved to them as he walked off back into the castle. He passed Li Mei on the way and directed her towards her sister. The barracks sat on the right side of the castle’s sleeping area, next to the guild halls. Usually, there are beds lined along the walls with foot lockers placed at each bed. Now, the beds had been shoved against the walls and a large, round table occupied the open space. A small map of Framlingarhalan and the castle sat on the table. People were surrounding a short white tiger. A small, blue round shield dangled from her wrist and her sword sat at her side. A white hammer symbol sat in the center of the small shield. Around Sorsha crowded a large man in full plate, Darrian Wolfe, Kanashi, Tempo, and a silver haired man with eyes that blazed like they were made out of fire. Each was talking to Sorsha, interrupting each other to give their input on what would be the best plan, who was growing increasingly aggravated by all the noise. Her ears sat back against her head and her tail flicked back and forth.

    Sasha sat away from the group, listening quietly. She looked about as flustered as Sorsha, her wings fluttered in aggravation as she tapped her foot and arms crossed under her chest. Shiren walked in quietly and brushed his hand along her back and trailed his fingers down the soft membrane of her wings. She visibly stiffened and turned to look at who was touching her. Shiren smiled and stood next to her. She relaxed and returned the smile before giving him a soft hug, which he returned gladly. He raised his eyebrow and nodded towards the argument. Sasha rolled her eyes and shook her head. He smiled and moved closer to the table. Sorsha’s ears perked up and she smiled, “Good. You’re awake. How are you feeling?”

    He shrugged slowly to avoid wincing in front of her. It didn’t work as his back seized up in pain, “I’m fine, Sorsha. How is everything holding up?”

    She watched him, probably judging how fit he was herself, “You need to rest some more. You pushed yourself hard at Ironpost.”

    “You should rest, Sorsha. You look like you haven’t slept for as long as I’ve been out. I can take it from here.” He smiled at her kindly which she returned. They always had this debate with each other. Both trying to get the other to take it easy, rest up. They stared at each other for a moment longer as they challenged the other to back down. Sorsha finally sighed and shook her head at him, which only made him smile a bit more.

    “Anyways. Here’s the situation as we know it. For some reason the elementals want us gone. Maybe they’re finally tired of us or want Tyrra for themselves, who bloody knows.” Sorsha paused to take a long drink from a nearby bottle. The scent of ginger and lemons drifted past his nose. She finished her drink and, at seeing his eyes, handed him the bottle, “Yes, you may have some. Anyways, we have been receiving whispering winds from the other cities. Anywhere that sat on a lay line crossroad was hit first. Hit hard. Some are still fighting, but it’s only a matter of time before they end up like Ironpost.” Everyone stared at the floor quietly for a moment. Shiren clenched his fists. He wanted to help, wanted to stop all this. But he was just a fighter; there wasn’t much he could do. He felt Sasha’s hand rub his back, forcing him to relax.

    “So no one knows why the elementals are here?” Shiren growled quietly.

    Sasha pursed her lips, “Well…not quite.” Everyone turned to look at her. She sighed in frustration and glared back at them, “If you all would have been listening, you would have known. Ms. Kitty and Tiapheres told us. Well, me and a few others. I was trying to tell you all.”

    Kanashi raised an eyebrow, “Go on?”

    She rolled her eyes and straightened, composing herself. She was still working on the whole being passive and not loud Dark Elf side of her. Shiren smiled to himself, she would always be the gypsy almost barbarian to him. Sasha’s wings fluttered a bit, “They want Tyrra. I don’t know what has compelled them but they want Tyrra for themselves. From what Tiapheres has said the planes have a…truce with each other. Once we are dealt with they will deal with each other.”

    Sorsha’s fur rose as she growled a little, “It’s not theirs to take.”

    “They did make Tyrra but you are right, Sorsha.” Shiren said quietly, “Did either say anything about whatever that Void creature was?”

    Sasha shook her head, “They’ve never seen it before, but it scares the bloody hell out of them.”

    Tempo shrugged, “I’ve never seen it before, but I’d be scared too if I was them.”

    “So what do we do?”

    Darrian shrugged, “We hold out and show them that we aren’t going down. The elementals will be here soon. We need to get ourselves together and make ready. The Count has siege weapons being put up and we are trying to get reinforcements. But with how fast and hard they are hitting…it’s unlikely.”

    Kanashi nodded quietly, “Then let’s get to work. We don’t have a lot of time. Shiren, can I talk to you outside?”

    Shiren nodded and gave Sorsha a scratch behind the ears as she hugged him. He paused at Sasha as he followed Kanashi out the door. She gently placed a hand on his cheek, “It isn’t your fault what happened, lovely. I’m glad you’re ok…” He touched her hand and smiled before walking out of the barracks. Kanashi was watching him quietly. Shiren sighed and rolled his shoulders, “What’s up, Kanashi?”

    Kanashi watched him for a moment longer, “How are you holding up?”

    Shiren shrugged, “I’m ready to fight.”

    “That’s not what I meant.” Kanashi frowned a little.

    “I know.”

    “You know it’s not your fault what –“

    “Yea. Couldn’t do anything. I know. Where is everyone else?”

    Kanashi sighed, “Ross is talking with Tiapheres. I think they are planning something for the upcoming fight. Everyone else is getting ready. We should be too.” He patted Shiren on the shoulder before walking away swiftly. Shiren nodded, he needed to get ready. The army would be here soon and there wasn’t time to grieve or beat himself up. Dark thoughts threatened to overwhelm him; thoughts that constantly plagued him after his mind had fractured. He tried to get rid of them, but they always resurfaced to give him doubt. He shoved the thoughts away with a growl, putting his pain and thoughts from Ironpost with them. He wasn’t going to lose this time.

    Shiren spent the rest of the day setting up siege weapons and defenses throughout the castle. At night, he practiced furiously. Maylin had sparred with him a bit, as well as Rynn, but they had long since gone to bed. He stayed awake, he didn’t want to sleep. He had been sleeping for two days while everyone else worked. Shiren stood on top of the castle walls and trained, swinging his sword in complicated arcs as he imagined himself in the battle that was sure to come. Shiren finally called it a night when Sorsha threatened to sick Sasha on him and put him to sleep. He grudgingly walked down to his bed and slipped under the covers. His mind raced as he slowly drifted off to sleep. The army would come. He would be ready.

    Horns blared as everyone raced to their positions. The army was seen just outside the barrier, marching closer to the city. It looked like a rainbow of death racing across the field. Every color and shape gathered, ready to rush the small castle. Shiren stood outside at the gate with the other shields. Maylin to his left, Rynn to his right. Others stood on the line, his friends, ready to fight. Sasha hovered behind the front lines with the other earth casters, ready to heal through the coming onslaught. Aidyn had taken the other casters on top of the castle walls where they could fire down into the forces. Everyone was quiet. They knew they were staring death in the face and were ready to meet it. A distant roar echoed over the fields as the army started to move in. Shiren knew that beast was somewhere, why wasn’t it with these forces? Tyrra shook subtly as something underground stirred and the elementals began launching their artillery blasts. The siege weapons roared to life as they began to launch their own missiles.

    Shiren raised his shield and watched as the sky filled with color and death.
     
  5. Part Five​


    “INCOMING! GET INSIDE NOW!”

    Sorsha bellowed orders at the top of her lungs as the war raged on. Everyone was hurt, bleeding or worse, in some fashion but they still picked themselves off the ground to fight. This wasn’t a time to fall, wasn’t a time to back down. They had to win. They were fighting for survival and their home.

    “I SAID FALL BACK, NOW!”

    Shiren dispatched of the elementals in front of him before forcing the people behind him backwards and into the castle’s safe ceiling. They had to get inside before the artillery –

    The castle shook as elemental energy crashed into the masonry and surrounding area. A few were blown away by the blast, thrown into the army of elementals and didn’t stand back up. Shiren growled as he pulled the castle doors shut and the rest of the soldiers barricaded it before readying themselves. He wanted to go rescue them, but knew it was a lost cause. He would just die like the rest. It was hard to believe they had been fighting for almost a day now. The elementals had wasted no time in charging across the field to get to the warriors. Explosions tore up the field as they closed in. Zeaque had done his job well. He had turned most of the field into a mine field in less than a day. Their ranks were thinned by the mining and catapults, but there were too many.

    The shield wall yelled defiantly as the elementals crawled over the barricade and the two forces met. Aidyn and the other celestial casters stood upon the castle’s wall, hurling arcane energy down into the army. The silver haired man Shiren saw earlier laughed as he commanded eldritch forces and decimated foe after foe, roaring a challenge to anything that threatened him. Shiren and the others fought like mad men. He slashed and stabbed anything that got in his way. Sasha and the other healers ran among the front line, healing whoever needed it the most. They had fought and fought until the artillery had threatened to overwhelm them. It had felt like hours. The only reason Shiren was still on his feet is because the energy of his transform fueled his body with power.

    And they were about to do it again.

    The doors to the castle groaned at each impact. Sasha was breathing heavily as she moved down the line, healing any injuries she could. The healers were almost spent. Illia and Li Mei were resorting to potions now. It would only be a matter of time before they were over run. Blood pounded in Shiren’s ears as he watched the doors flex and splinter, “We’ll be fine. Hold together…” He muttered mostly to himself. Maylin stood next to him, her worried eyes locked onto doors. Rynn and Sorsha were on the other side of him. They were all tired, cut up, and battered nearly to pieces. But they had to hold on. He could hear the civilians behind him in the castle’s buildings; children whimpering and clinging to their mothers, mothers holding onto their husbands for support. Everyone worried about whether this moment would be their last. They had to survive.

    “Did those whispering winds get out?” Shiren asked quietly to Sorsha. She shook her head and his heart fell a bit. They were hoping the cities away from the lay lines could provide reinforcements. Hoping that they could gather together and put a stop to all this. But it looked like that wasn’t going to happen. They were all on their own. Sasha must have seen him slump. She quickly moved to his back and checked to see if he was ok. “Yea…” He whispered quietly and squared himself up as the doors rattled again. They wouldn’t hold out much longer.

    Ross marched into the healing line and quickly began dispersing spells. He was fresh. He had been talking with Tiapheres the entire time. Shiren looked at him, “So? Glad you can join us…”

    Ross nodded quietly as he worked, “Tiapheres is going to start evacuating the citizens with her abilities.” He looked different. He seemed to radiate energy. No, he didn’t seem to, he WAS radiating energy. A soft, purple glow came off like smoke as he walked.

    “Anything else?” Shiren stated as he watched Ross.

    “Yea. She gave me this.” Ross snapped as he marched up to Sasha and put his hand on her shoulder. Purple energy rushed from Ross into Sasha until she glowed as well. The glow died down as Sasha’s eyes grew wide, “Well, HI there…” Ross nodded and proceeded to move to each healer, dispersing the purple energy among them. They all looked well rested, like they hadn’t just been fighting for their lives. The ground rumbled as an artillery blast sailed high over the wall. Shiren could hear the silver man cackle at the elementals, taunting them as he hurled spells at them.

    Sorsha’s ears twitched, confused, “What did he do?”

    A skinny man with glasses spoke as Ross darted up the stairs, to spread his power to the celestial casters, “He…how you say... has given us back some of our strength. We will be able to keep healing.” He spoke with a thick accent and wore a heavy, leather overcoat. The man picked up his spear and adjusted his glasses.

    Sorsha nodded approvingly, “Palidrome, are Matsu and the others in place?”

    Palidrome nodded quietly. The conversation was cut short as the doors blew apart and a sea of color poured in. The air was filled with hissing elemental and arcane energy as spells and blasts flew back and forth. Shiren tensed and slammed his shield into the rushing creatures, knocking them back. Maylin ducked under her shield as claws threatened to rake her face. The two stabbed and cut down the creature as more came to take its place. The enemies never seemed to end. It was like a tidal wave had broken down the door and poured over the survivors. A few creatures tried to scale the castle walls but were quickly dispatched by pots of boiling oil, arrows, and magic. The rear door of the castle groaned as creatures assaulted it. It would do them no good, however. Celestial casters had rendered the door indestructible and locked it. Nothing was getting in that way.

    Shiren fell as an elemental grabbed his leg and tore it out from under him. Claws raked at him and a mixture of hot, cold, and tingling pain crawled over his body as the creatures tried to tear him apart and drag him into their ranks. He kicked madly and hammered the pommel of his sword into a being made of pure darkness. Its pitch black eyes stared at him as others tried to crawl over him into the healers. Shiren knocked one down with his shield and kicked again at the creature holding him. Claws reached for his face and vanished as a sword was driven through the elemental. The one on the ground took a boot to the face as well as a couple spears before disappearing. Rynn and Maylin adjusted their guard to protect Shiren as he crawled back to his feet. His leg bled profusely and his shield shoulder felt dislocated or worse. Shiren simply nodded his thanks to the girls before diving back into the fight.

    An elemental knocked down Sorsha and raised its arms to finish the job. It vanished in a puff of white light as a slingshot bolt drove itself through the creature’s skull. A large, bipedal rabbit reloaded it’s slingshot with supernatural speed and kept firing into the army. Sorsha was back on her feet shortly after and roared. Fighting could be heard above them. The elementals must have fought through the forces and taken the wall. Elemental artillery continued to rain, destroying anything it touched. Shiren felt a hand grab his belt as he cut down another elemental.

    “Shiren! You and I are going up! They need us.” Ross shouted into his ear. Shiren nodded and fell back. Rynn and Maylin closed the gap and continued to fight as the pair rushed up onto the top of the castle walls. It was chaos. Casters ran and hurled spells as elementals chased after them. A few fell as blurs of colorful energy tackled them to the ground and tore them apart. Aidyn and the silver haired man stood in the Celestial Circle with a few other casters. Shiren forgot all else. Aidyn was in trouble. He needed to get to her. Ross pointed with a large claw made entirely out of swirling purple energy and Shiren charged into the fight. White energy grazed his cheek as Shiren met the elementals. One swung for his head and another hurled a ball of energy at him. Shiren ducked under the blast and slammed his shield into the creature in front of him. He sent the creature tumbling through the air as momentum took Shiren forward into the others.

    The pair fought like madmen. Ross used his shield to guard Shiren’s open side and swung at anything that tried to get around Shiren’s arc of destruction. Elementals fell under Shiren’s blade. Claws raked his ribs and a stray blast of energy slammed into his shoulder. Energy flowed over his skin, making it itch, and the pain faded away. And still they fought their way closer to the circle. They had almost made it when more elementals poured over the top of the wall. Shiren heard Ross swear as he was brutally yanked away from Shiren.

    ‘NO!’ Shiren roared as he turned and cut down the elementals around him. They were not getting another one of his friends! Ross fought and slashed at the elementals that held him up… and disappeared over the wall as the creatures threw him. Shiren yelled and tried to see if Ross had survived but was forced back by the wave of creatures. Shiren blocked and sliced away attempts to grab him as well. He needed to get to Aidyn. He needed to save her. He didn’t have time to grieve or worry. A claw sliced open his forehead and blood filled his vision. He couldn’t take much more, he was going to fail. Elementals disappeared in wisps of energy as other adventurer’s joined in the rescue operation. Shiren cleaned his eyes and lead the charge towards the Celestial Circle. Elementals scattered and tried to flank but were cut down by the rescue team. Aidyn smiled at Shiren in relief as they rushed into the room, swords drawn.

    “Come on. We have to regroup.”

    The silver haired man growled and his eyes seemed to flicker with energy, “Screw this. Burn me if I’m going to run anymore. They want this place so badly? Let’s see them take it.”

    Aidyn hopped out of the circle to quickly hug Shiren before she took her place behind the wall of fighters, “Come on, Reynald.”

    The man shook his head. His fiery eyes locked onto everyone in front of him, “Get everyone out of here if you want to live. I’ll take care of this. I’ll take care of them all…” He growled and mumbled to himself as he began gathering components. Aidyn jumped back into the circle quickly and fished a few components from the front of her dress. She shoved them into his hand and smiled. He took them and spoke seriously. “Go.”

    Aidyn smiled and stepped out of the circle. “You can’t order me around, I’m your superior.” Reynald rolled his eyes, gave her a crooked smile, and continued gathering components. Shiren wanted to drag the man out by his ears, but they didn’t have time. The fighting downstairs had gone from bad, to worse. The line had been pushed into the courtyard and was getting worse by the minute. Shiren and the rescue team charged down the stairs to help. Aidyn sent blasts of magic over Shiren’s shoulder and cleared the stairway as they engaged the enemy.

    A young adventurer rushed at Shiren swords drawn. He was dressed in simple, plate armor and wore a strange tabard. Shiren blocked the boy’s wild swings and kicked him back. The tabard was white with an odd, multicolored border. In the center sat a black and red symbol, the symbol for chaos. The boy couldn’t have been much older than Shiren when he started adventuring. Did he even know what side he was on? The boy growled and rushed at Shiren again and again. Each time he was deflected and shoved away. Shiren didn’t want to kill this boy. But he had to get to the fight. It was devolving into a frantic fight for survival. Before the boy could get off the ground, Shiren descended upon him and slammed the flat of his blade against the boy’s head. He slumped to the ground, unconscious, as Shiren leapt over him and rejoined the fight.

    It was madness. Adventurers tried to flank and route the sea of colorful creatures, force them back out of the castle. It was only a matter of time before they were over run. The courtyard was slick with blood and the people fell left and right. This was it. They weren’t going to survive. The ground shook horribly and knocked everyone down. A roar tore through the air and warped the sky. Another different roar echoed back. The second sounded deeper and older. If elementals could feel fear, they were showing it. The creatures looked around wildly before space distorted and the creatures vanished. Shiren picked himself off the ground and looked around. The entire courtyard was quiet, devoid of enemies. He was tired, blood leaked from multiple wounds all over his body. He couldn’t open his hand; it was cut and busted to remain clenched around the handle of his sword. People were laying everywhere. They needed his help. The ground came to meet Shiren as he stepped and his leg gave out.

    A pair of hands grabbed him, “Whoa. Are you ok? Hedgehog think you look terrible, Shiren.” Shiren looked at the man that was hauling him to his feet. He was dressed in a green tunic, chainmail, and furs. Shiren nodded quietly and Hedgehog smiled before leaving to find Rynn, who was just now picking herself off the ground. Everyone else was finally standing up and shaking off the disorientation. Another roar shook the very stone work of the castle and the ground rumbled dangerously. Shakar was helping Sasha and Chev to their feet. Kanashi walked over to Shiren along with Maylin, Rynn, Aidyn, and the rest.

    “Shiren, Are you alright?” A short, blonde dwarf asked. He was wearing an odd robe, spear, and shield.

    Shiren waved him off and coughed, “I’m alright, Maelstrom.” Rynn offered him a bottle from her pouch. He drank it grudgingly; she wouldn’t leave him alone until he did. His body warmed as the potion’s effects took place and his skin crawled with the familiar sense of healing.

    “Where’s Ross? Wasn’t he with you?” Maylin asked as she looked around at the survivors.

    Aidyn winced and hugged herself quietly. Shiren’s heart fell into his stomach, “He was taken over the wall…I doubt –” He couldn’t go on. He trembled as Maylin offered him a comforting hug and Rynn rubbed his shoulders.

    “You tried…” Aidyn said, trying to offer some comfort.

    “Yea…Just wasn’t –”

    Space distorted and a small, pleasantly plump woman stumbled into the courtyard. Her raven hair fell over her stone white features as she fell to her knees and panted. Shiren quickly moved over to Tiapheres and bent down to help her up. Tiapheres grabbed onto his shoulder and pulled herself up, “I’m ok…just…tired.”

    Kanashi and the others quickly followed Shiren’s idea and moved to help Tiapheres. Her eyes twinkled in amusement as she looked at them. Shiren couldn’t help but smile. She was playing her perceived race perfectly. The Stone Elf woman straightened herself, “I can do one more…then I have to leave…and rest. Where is Ross?”

    Kanashi took the burden from Shiren, “He fell trying to rescue people. We aren’t sure if he survived or not.”

    Tiapheres’ eyebrows knitted in worry as her gaze fell to the floor, “He will be fine. Now then, let us start moving the survivors.” She detangled herself from the group and marched off to where civilians were waiting to be taken to safety. Moriken sat quietly mourning the loss of their friend until Sorsha broke the silence, “Moriken. A word?” She marched out of the Hammer Barracks looking as if she had reached the end of her rope.

    Kanashi nodded, “Of course, Sorsha. What can we do for you?”

    Sorsha visibly shook herself and tried to smile. Shiren wasn’t fooled, he knew Sorsha too well. She looked at each of them, “The Count and The Brigadier General have been keeping some of the forces at bay. We need to start using the Guild Circle to spirit walk the rest of the townspeople out. I sent Darrian ahead to warn Beronis and the other cities. Hopefully they haven’t been hit yet…” She held onto that thought as if it was the only thing she had left to hope for, “The Hammers and I will hold the forces here while you move the citizens.”

    Kanashi watched her for a moment quietly. He ran fingers through goatee, “As you wish. Moriken, let’s get to work.”

    Everyone moved quickly to gather the adventurers except Shiren. Aidyn, Maylin, and Rynn could see the look in his eyes and refused to get into action. Sorsha looked at each of them with a raised eyebrow. Aidyn sighed and turned to look at Shiren seriously, “You better make it to Beronis.”

    He nodded quietly, “I’ll be right behind you.”

    Maylin and Rynn opened their mouths to speak but Aidyn stopped them, “He won’t let you, you know that. Come on.” She leaned up to kiss him on the cheek and tried to cover her worry with a halfhearted smile before scurrying off to work.

    Rynn hugged him and muttered quietly in his ear, “Don’t die.” before following Kanashi.

    Maylin kissed his other cheek, “Stay safe.” She whispered.

    “I always do.”

    Maylin smiled before disappearing as well. Sorsha stared at him, “May I ask what that was about?”

    Shiren smiled calmly, “I thought you knew me better. I’m staying to help.”

    Sorsha’s eyes grew large, “Like hell you are! You need to go with the others!”

    He laughed, “Not happening. You know me. I need to make sure you make it to Beronis safely. Quillian would kill me if I didn’t and I couldn’t live with myself.”

    Shiren had never seen a Gorbe blush and that went double for Sorsha. But her fur turned a light shade of pink as she stumbled over her words, looking for an excuse. He just smiled lightly at her, “You can’t convince me otherwise. Now –”

    The ground lurched as in the distance a plume of acid and earth exploded skyward. The remaining adventurers watched in horror as a large black horror shot skyward, blotting out the very sun. Its scales glittered like black obsidian and its crimson eyes burned with hatred and revenge. It bellowed a challenge and shot acid from its wide maw. Massive chains dangled from it, the ends eaten away by what must have been the Void Beast. It was massive. The dragon’s wings seemed to cover the entire forest as it took to the sky, roaring in revenge and hate. Civilians screamed in horror and rushed for the circle, desperate to get out of Framlingarhalan. Shiren froze. He had seen this beast before, had fought it and helped the casters return the beast to its slumber. Now it was free, and it was angry. Sorsha and the hammers raced out to join The Count as his army charged the dragon. He willed his body to move and ran to meet them. A hand grabbed his wrist and pulled him to a stop. He spun until he was facing Reynald. His eyes burning like a wildfire as he glared at the dragon in the sky.

    “Where’s Sorsha!” He shouted over the roaring and sounds of fighting.

    “She’s out there! Let me go so I can help!” Shiren tugged at the man’s grip. Why wouldn’t he let him fight!?

    Reynald growled, “Burn me, you’re an idiot. Alright, listen to me. Get everyone you can to Palidrome. He’s waiting to spirit walk you all out. GO!” He gave Shiren a shove as he marched out into the open battleground. The dragon swooped over the castle and released a torrent of acid and death. Parts of the castle melted and adventurers and civilians scrambled out of the buildings and screamed in terror. Shiren had to act, had to move. He raced over to a small group of frightened young adventurers, “Is everyone ok?”

    They nodded quietly, clinging to each other and cringing as the dragon roared and men screamed. Shiren stood over them protectively until he was sure the beast wasn’t attacking, “Ok. The circle in the guild hall will take you to safety. Stay together and don’t stop alright?”

    They nodded and pulled themselves to their feet. Shiren smiled comfortingly, “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine. Now, hurry!”

    Shiren moved from building to building, grabbing whoever he could and telling them to reach the circle. Some tried to fight him; they didn’t want to leave their homes behind. He wanted to tear their heads off. Didn’t they know everyone was going to die because they wanted to be stubborn! He yelled and threatened until the people got moving to safety. Shiren looked out onto the field as he passed the front gate. Reynald stood in the middle of a large circle, his skin ablaze with runes made out of fire as he chanted. He sounded like he was laughing. The White Hammers still fought, though Shiren couldn’t hear Sorsha. He didn’t want to think about it. Shakar and Chev were sprinting towards the castle. They each had a person slung over their shoulders. Shakar carried Sasha and Chev carried a woman covered in black scales, wearing a blue dress. Everyone looked like hell and their clothes were being eaten away by acid.

    Shiren caught up to them as they neared the castle gates, “Are they ok!?”

    Chev nodded, “Whirl tried to talk to the dragon. Would have fried us all but it missed. Sasha wouldn’t want us to leave her.”

    “And Sasha?”

    Shakar growled slightly, “Got too close to the blast. She’s fine but –”
    “HEADS UP!”

    The dragon roared as it dove for the castle. From its massive jaws a ball of acid and magic hurtled towards the gates. Masonry and metal screamed in pain as the front of the castle exploded. Shiren tumbled along the ground as dust and dirt filled the air. His heart raced as he shot to his feet. ‘Don’t let them be dead. Don’t, please.’ He repeated over and over in his head. The dust cleared, the front gate was a pile of stone and rubble. Everyone lay sprawled out across the floor, no one pinned by the rubble. Shiren sighed in relief as Shakar stirred and shook his head. Whirl murmured something about a hat and the others were breathing. No one died. Shakar stood and bent to pick up Chev and Sasha, “Grab her, Shiren. We have to move.”

    Shiren quickly grabbed Whirl and the two began to move towards the guild, “Why?”

    As soon as they entered the guild hall, he had his answer. The very air seemed to fill with energy. His hair stood on end. Palidrome yelled at them to hurry as he began his ritual. A wave of force punched him in the back and a voice seemed to boom across all of Tyrra, “DIE!”

    Shakar and Shiren tumbled through the air into the circle and Framlingarhalan vanished in a sea of white as they stumbled into the chaos that was the City of Beronis.

    A loud barking laugh startled him from his memories. A couple of men across the bar were well beyond “a little too much to drink” and they weren’t trying to hide it. Shiren looked into his half empty glass and took another gulp. He would find out later what had happened that last day in Framlingarhalan. The man known as Reynald had drawn in massive amounts of celestial energy for a ritual. As he had reached as much as he could handle, he back lashed the ritual and caused a massive explosion of arcane energy. The blast destroyed everything; Framlingarhalan, the dragon, the Hammers, everything. The nearby river filled the massive crater that was left behind and erased almost the entire once great city. The only bit of Framlingarhalan that remained was a tiny island in the center where Reynald had put his circle. Humans would later call the results Crater Lake, and the island in the middle Wizard’s Island. Shiren had always found that slightly amusing and depressing. It was a constant reminder of what was lost that day and how easily it had been forgotten.

    The waitress wandered over and tilted her head. “You need anything, honey?”

    “Thanks, but I’m fine.”

    ‘I’m fine.’
     
  6. Part Six​


    Chaos. That was the best way to describe the port city, Beronis. The spirit walk had barely been a success. It dumped the last survivors, including Shakar and Shiren, into the city’s massive tavern. Welcome to the Widow Walk Tavern and Inn. The cities injured lay across the tables of the tavern as healers dashed back and forth. Civilians huddled in the corner and more could be heard upstairs in the inn portion. A tall, proud, female cheetah Gorbe stood amongst others of her kind and tried to keep them from panic. Shakar passed Sasha over to Shiren as he spoke to another Gorbe, his lieutenant. The Gorbe calmly explained the situation to Shakar. Chev had regained consciousness and opened his mouth to say something when an explosion rocked the tavern.

    The first explosion tossed Shiren onto the stage like a rag doll. Sasha was torn from his grip as he flew and Shakar landed near him. Chev was yelling something, but Shiren couldn’t hear it over the ringing in his ears. Shakar growled a reply and tried to stand.

    Then the stage exploded as well, tossing them into the open field.

    ‘What drives you?’
    Shards of wood, support beams, and tables flew through the air as the explosion tore apart the Widow Walk Tavern and Inn. A sickening, bone-crunching sound shook through Shiren as he impacted the ground and rolled. Something in him broke and his entire body screamed in pain.

    ‘We’re fighters, Shakar. It’s our job to do what everyone else is too afraid to do. We throw ourselves in death’s face every day to protect everyone around us. And everyone takes that for granted. They don’t know what we go through and are too scared to face what we face head on. Because it is our job.’

    The stone wall brought his rolling to a sudden halt. Blood exploded from his mouth, his arm bent at an odd angle. Debris fell on top of him and pinned him under the heavy weight. His vision was blurry at best as he looked around at the carnage. The front part of the tavern was gone, torn apart by the explosions. Pieces and people were thrown across the open field. He blinked, trying to clear his vision. Sasha, Shakar, Chev, and Shakar’s lieutenant were a short distance away. He had to get to them and help.

    ‘What drives you to do what you do?’

    Shiren pushed with all his might, but the debris wouldn’t move. A cry of pain tore from his lips as the weight of the debris shifted onto his broken ribs. Gold filled his vision. The creature was human shaped. Its golden body hummed with energy as it stared at Shiren with crackling gold eyes. No one was going to get there in time to help him. Energy swirled around the creature’s hands as it prepared to end Shiren’s life. Shiren closed his eyes and braced himself. So this was how it was going to end.

    ‘What drives me? Keeping the people I love safe drives me. Whenever I am at the end of my rope they are always there to pick me back up. They keep me going when nothing else will.’

    He had come so far, he didn’t want to die like this. They still needed him. Shiren waited for the blast of energy that was sure to come.

    “SHIREN!”

    Shiren’s eyes snapped open as the creature stumbled backwards from the onslaught of icy energy that slammed into its chest. It hurled golden energy back at the assailant before a blur of pink and silver cut down the creature. Shiren blinked his eyes, trying to clear them, and looked at his rescuers. A woman with short cut hair and golden brown eyes looked down at him worriedly. She wore a double breasted vest similar to his, only bright pink.

    “Aidyn! Get Sasha while I get this stuff off of him.” Sita called as she began to tackle the rubble pinning Shiren down. Aidyn ran to Shiren and lifted his chin, looking into his eyes. “He’ll be fine.” She smiled weakly before getting up and darting off to get Sasha.

    Shiren coughed and he tasted blood, “Thanks…” He muttered weakly.

    Sita shoved and pulled aside the large beams of wood and rubble. She smiled down at him reassuringly, “Stay awake, Shiren. You’re ok. I’ll get you out of this.” He nodded, wincing in pain as the pressure on his ribs was removed. Darkness filled his vision, someone was yelling at him. A sudden lurch brought back his senses as he was hauled to his feet and healing crawled over his skin. He blinked his vision clear and looked around. He was leaning on Sita, her gold eyes watching him. Niz smiled from in front of him, she must have been the one to heal him. Aidyn and Sasha made their way over.

    “Are you all ok?” His voice sounded hoarse and rough from the hours of non stop fighting. Sita laughed at him and shook her head. Aidyn muttered, “Stupid…” to herself.

    “WE are fine, honey.” Sasha said soothingly as she checked his vitals and dispensed healing sparingly. She must have been nearly tapped. How long could they hold out once healing and potions were gone? She sighed, “The question is are YOU ok?”

    Shiren smiled weakly and winced as he tried to stand up straight. His body was battered, bruised, and close to quitting. Energy thrummed through his body as his transform gave him what he needed to keep going, “I’m fine. Where are the others?”

    Niz looked at him seriously, “No. You aren’t fine. You should rest.”

    “Where are the others?” He ignored her concern and looked around the field. Men and women with black sashes dashed around. They weren’t in panic as far as he could tell. They moved in well coordinated groups, dealing with anything that tried to harm the city. Civilians ran like chickens with their heads cut off and men in black robes fought alongside golden creatures. The creatures looked confused and attacked elementals and civilians alike. Small tears of black energy appeared and disappeared randomly. Groups of mangy looking citizens threw bottles of intoxicants and fire at buildings. The bottles exploded upon impact and burned everything they touched.

    A tall snow leopard marched towards Shiren and the others. His tail, which was half the length it should be, twitched angrily as he walked. The snow leopard was dressed in simple black clothing and black leather boots. A black sash with gold trim hung from his shoulders and a black fedora with a white band adorned his white hair. He carried a black coffin shaped shield which was scared from the battles it had survived. He carried no sword; his open hand twitched eagerly for action. His glowing green eyes locked onto the elementals that rushed to engage him, one composed entirely out of stone and the other a mass of crackling lightning. The leopard sliced his shield through the air and shattered the stone creature before it could reach him. His open hand blurred into action as he grabbed the mass of lightning around the neck, lifted it off its feet, and drove it into the ground. The creatures vanished into energy and rubble as the leopard approached Shiren and the others, “Status report.”

    Sita looked at the leopard with an awed expression, “Gangs put explosive traps in the tavern, Alistair. Everyone is fine for the most part.”

    The Lord Tactician quickly looked around at the carnage, probably assessing the current situation. Shiren could see the noble’s mind race. Alistair nodded quietly, “Right. The guards are moving civilians to safety. We need a better assessment of what we are dealing with. Darrian and the others are waiting for us in the War Room. We need to move.”

    “Lord Mathius!” The tiger Shakar had been talking to earlier saluted.

    “Bahadur…You can call me Alistair…” The noble groaned, annoyed.

    “Sorry, Sir. I can’t find Captain Shakar.”

    Alistair made an odd sound, “Damn.”

    Shiren shook his head and detached himself from Sita, “I got it. I’ll find him.”

    Sita looked at him worriedly. Shiren nodded, “I’m fine. Sasha, go with Bahadur and Sita. Keep them safe. Aidyn, Niz, you two go as well.”

    Aidyn shook her head, “Not this time, Shiren.”

    Niz nodded in agreement, “You need us.”

    Shiren would have argued but Alistair sighed, frustrated, “That settles it. Thank you. Now, let’s move. Meet us in the War Room as quickly as you can. Good luck.”

    Sasha touched his chest, right where her amber heart necklace lay, and smiled. He returned the smile and winked. Sita watched him for a moment. Shiren nodded to Alistair and the others “Go. I’ll be right there.” She nodded slowly and raced after them. He looked to Aidyn and Niz, “Let’s go.”

    The three worked their way through the streets of the Residential District, looking for Shakar. It was mayhem, citizens were running from rampant creatures as the guards tried to keep order and handle the situation. The city felt like a maze to Shiren. Alleys lead to dead ends or the other end of the district somehow. People and enemies seemed to materialize out of the shadows themselves. The streets were filled with panic, fighting, and destructive elemental energy. Shiren saw people raiding other people’s houses for possessions rather than run from the enemies before them. Gangs fought the guards and screamed about how the noble’s weren’t doing their job. Everywhere Shiren looked Beronis was falling into turmoil and fear. And they still couldn’t find Shakar.

    “There!” Niz shouted and rushed past Shiren. Shakar was down, bleeding from multiple burns and cuts along his body. His fellow guards lay scattered around him. He was pinned under a building that had exploded.

    “DON’T!” Shiren yelled as he tried to grab Niz.

    He was too late.

    Men dressed in pieces of armor and weapons rushed out of the alleys and grabbed Niz. She screamed as they tore at her clothes and grabbed for her equipment. Shiren growled to himself as he and Aidyn rushed the thugs. Bolts of energy flew and blasted men off their feet. Niz kicked the man that was holding her in his groin, spun, and slammed her shield into his face. The man collapsed, groaning and holding himself. The others turned to Shiren and pulled out weapons. Shiren raised his guard and advanced.

    Elementals poured out of the fallen building and swarmed over the thugs, Niz, Aidyn, and Shiren. He reacted without thought, moving past the thugs to stand in front of everyone, “Get out of my sight.” He spoke darkly as the elementals slashed at him. One went down to a kick in the leg; another’s head vanished entirely as Shiren’s sword sliced through it. The men panicked and grabbed their friend before running. To hell with them. Shiren ducked as energy hissed passed his ear. Celestial energy flashed over his shoulder as Aidyn fought.

    “On your left.” Niz’s voice drifted softly as she approached Shiren’s left. She raised her shield and together they pushed their way to Shakar. More elementals poured out and forced the trio back into a defensive position. Niz retreated to healing Shiren as he fought tooth and nail for every foot they gained. Pain exploded across his face as a claw from an elemental bounced off the edge of his shield and slashed open his face. Warm blood slid down Shiren’s face as he cut down the elemental and moved to the next. The familiar sense of healing washed over him, restoring some of his drive to fight and move. They had almost made it to Shakar. They were mere feet from him when a hulking monster of an elemental charged through the wall of the building to Shiren’s left and grabbed him around the throat. Swirling red orbs stared at Shiren as its black arm squeezed tighter. Its skin looked semi real, swirling and ever changing. The chaos juggernaut roared as it threw Shiren into the rubble of the building. Shiren slumped to the ground next to Shakar.

    ‘Damn…Come on, Shiren.’ He thought weakly as he watched Niz fend off the juggernaut, Aidyn doing her best to hurl spell after spell as quickly as she could. The chaos beast laughed as it knocked Niz around like a toy. Shiren struggled to his feet, ‘Keep…moving…’ A backhanded blow from the juggernaut sent Niz flying into Aidyn. The two girls rolled along the ground, eventually sliding to a halt. The beast turned to Shiren and roared, ready to finish him off.

    A mad cackle flowed over the city street as a blur of copper, cogs, and metal leaped over Shiren’s head and tackled the juggernaut. The thing looked like a golem except where the chest and head should be sat an insane looking man with soot all over his face. He wore tinkering goggles with cogs on the sides and a top hat. The goggles held a bunch of little arms supporting a variety of lenses and gadgets. The man pulled and tugged at different levers and buttons surrounding him, forcing the golem into action. The golem was a concoction of cogs, steaming vents, and metal. The black energy that poured from the juggernaut’s mouth seemed to roll off the golem without damaging any of the thousands of moving parts. The man grappled the creature and cackled madly, “I didn’t think that would work! HAHA! Now, Susan!”

    Another clockwork machine skidded out from a nearby alley, this one piloted by a small girl. The girl had soot all over her face like the older man. She was singing a song, “One little, Two little, Three little Wild Elves.” Two large blades slid out of the golems’ arms and the golem drove them into the juggernaut’s back. The creature roared and struggled to fight as the duo hammered into it again and again until it slowly dissolved into black smoke. The man turned his hulking machine towards Shiren, “You all ok?”

    Shiren stared at the hissing machine, baffled “Uh…yeah. Are they ok?” He nodded towards Aidyn and Niz.

    The man hopped out of his machine with a small giggle and trotted over to them. On his back sat two large tanks of some strange liquid. Tubes came off the device and ran down his arm into his glove. The man bent and touched his glove to the girls. The cylinders on his back hissed, bubbled, and vented an odd smelling steam. Niz and Aidyn roused and slowly got to their feet. The man had healed them with that strange device. Shiren blinked a few times, trying to get his head around the whole thing. These two were insane! The girl draped her arms over the monstrosity she was piloting. She cooed and stroked the copper frame telling the golem how amazing it had done. It was… bizarre.

    Shiren groaned and crawled over to Shakar. Good, he was still breathing, “Come on you old cat. Wake up.”

    Shakar stirred, “About time you got here…” Niz helped him to his feet and healing magic crawled over him. Shakar shook his fur and straightened before drawing his weapons.

    A smile slowly crawled over Shiren’s lips, “Lord Alistair needs us at the Noble District. Can you walk?”

    Shakar chuckled, “Yea. We better get going. He hates it when people keep him waiting…”

    Aidyn looked at Shiren carefully, making sure he was ok. He waved it away with a smile, “I’m fine.” And the four were back in the maze that was the Residential District. Fortunately, Shakar knew the way and within no time they were back in the open field in front of the Widow Walk. Healers and guards were still clearing up the debris and injured. The unearthly roar of The Beast echoed over Beronis. It was getting closer. It had apparently had enough of Tyrrans and wanted them all dead. How could they stop something that powerful? Shakar seemed to be on the same wave length and shook his head slowly. They had to figure something out.

    “Shakar!” A guard sprinted over to the group. He wore a green and black vest with the town guard sash draped over his shoulders. Where his right arm should be was instead a copper clockwork arm.

    Shakar straightened a bit and nodded to the man, “Sir Brian. What is it?”

    Brian shook his head, “Alistair is looking for you.”

    “I know that. We were on our way there now.”

    “Good. I have to report in anyways.”

    Aidyn sighed, “Well let’s get going then. We are in the middle of a war…” Shakar and Brian lead the charge through the rest of the Residential District into the Noble’s District. Elementals materialized in their path and attempted to stop them. The three fighters made short work of them and pressed on. The gate to the Noble District was a warzone. Elementals, men in black robes, and more screamed and pushed against the wall of Town Guard. Brian looked to the others and they nodded. They had to help. The guard pushed outward as Shiren and the others slammed into the rear line. Shiren did his best to make sure not to kill any of the civilians and knock any non elemental unconscious with the flat of his blade. Shakar spun from one elemental to the next, his katanas whirling through the air in dangerous arcs. Aidyn cleared lines of elementals with her magic as Niz fought and healed the three fighters.

    The lines thinned out as the guard worked their way forward, systematically destroying anything that got in their path. Alistair and Sita were at the front of the guard’s charge as they fought. After the last of the elementals fell, Alistair and Sita moved to Shiren and the others. Sita smiled, relieved, at Shiren. Alistair looked at each of them, “Thank you for the help. Shakar, report.”

    Shakar sighed, “Residential has been hit hard. Clutch and Susan are using their infernal devices to clean up what they can…but it’s a mess.”

    Brian interrupted, “I hate to interrupt, but we have a problem, Alistair.”

    “When don’t we? The city is falling apart. What is it?”

    “The Harbor Guard has reported in. The elementals are trying to reach the dock crystals. I don’t know what they plan to use them for, but we need to get them.”

    Alistair made that odd sound again, “Alright. Sita, Shakar, Brian. We are going to get those crystals. We can use your help.” He nodded to Shiren, Aidyn and Niz.

    “I’m tapped.” Aidyn said wearily. She looked tired and wounded, barely standing on her feet. Niz nodded quietly, she was tapped as well.

    “Go find Moriken and get them down to the docks. I think we’ll need them. I’m going with them.” Shiren nodded towards Sita.

    “But –“ Niz objected.

    “If they are going for the docks they are going to need all the fighters they can get. I can help now, instead of later. Don’t worry.” Shiren cut her off and smiled. Aidyn looked at him quietly, obviously wanting to give her own objections. She sighed and looked at Sita. Sita nodded and smiled reassuringly. Aidyn grabbed Niz’s hand and pulled her away to go look for Moriken. The two disappeared into the city as Shiren and the others raced off towards the docks.

    The path to the docks was quiet, too quiet. There was no army of elementals, no rioters, nothing. Alistair turned and looked at the group, “Brian, Sita, and I will disable the dock crystals, one for each of us. You two hold this point until reinforcements arrive. I don’t like this.” The three departed as Shakar and Shiren were left to fend off anything that attacked. The Beast’s roar shook Tyrra itself. It was getting closer. Tyrra trembled in pain as the creature roared again. Shiren looked to Shakar, whose eyes widened in fear. Space distorted in front of them. An entire army rifted in before their eyes.

    Tyrra shook and tore itself apart as Shiren stared down the army. The ground beneath their feet erupted and separated Shakar from Shiren. A large chasm materialized in the ground between the two fighters. Shakar was yelling at him, trying to reach him as Tyrra itself separated Shiren from his friends. Alistair and the others would have the docks disabled soon, but this army had to be stopped. If it wasn’t it would over run Shakar, Sita, and everyone he cared about. Shiren braced and squared himself against the wall of color and death.

    ‘So this is how it is…’ He thought to himself. He was oddly calm.

    Shiren roared in defiance as the army descended upon him. Silver energy erupted from him and energy surged through his body as the battle began.

    Elementals crashed against him and were decimated. Shiren knocked them aside as if there were toys and kept moving, kept fighting. They were not getting his friends, his family. They were NOT getting the loves of his life. He was a blur of death and destruction. Nothing could stop him. His side erupted in pain as claws tore into him. A blast of energy caught him in the chest, threatening to throw him to the ground. Shiren growled darkly and spun to cut down his assailant. His shield threw elementals aside as he cut down one after the other. Another slash of pain across his back sent him sprawling to the ground. ‘GET UP! KEEP MOVING!’ Shiren pushed off the ground, cutting the legs out of elementals as he stood. He forced himself to keep moving, keep fighting.

    Pain flared along Shiren’s arm as his shoulder jolted from a blast of energy slamming into him. He spun and stuck nearby elementals with his shield, forcing them to the ground as he drove his blade through them. Three elementals rushed him in an attempt to tackle him to the ground. Shiren evaded one and ducked under his shield to throw the other two over his shoulder. His chest erupted in fire as elementals took advantage of his open guard. Shiren coughed and blood poured from his mouth. He had to keep fighting. There was no turning back. Shiren fought and killed without thought, on pure instinct. It felt like an eternity of fighting. He was tired and sore. Yet he still fought on. He still forced himself from one enemy to the next. He fought until his body couldn’t handle anymore more and he fell to the dirt.

    ‘Dammit.’ He tried to move but his body wouldn’t respond. Blood leaked from wounds and pain blocked out any other sensation. It was over…his body was too broken to continue. His vision dimmed, it was getting hard to see. Did he get them all? Were the docks disabled? He hoped so. At least then everyone would be safe. That was all that mattered. Someone’s voice drifted through the encroaching darkness, yelling his name. Couldn’t they let him rest? He had failed, it was over. Someone was leaning over him. He tried to clear his vision and see who it was. An elemental? No. He saw a pink jacket and a familiar face. He knew this person, loved her. ‘Sita…’ He tried to smile at her, glad to see her face. At least she was safe. The world flipped as he was hauled over her shoulder.

    She was yelling for someone. He strained to hear her. “Shakar!” She yelled as she carried him. His vision kept getting fuzzier. He couldn’t seem to clear it. Stay awake. Just stay awake. His body was getting heavier, the feeling slowly sleeping away from him. He could hear fighting around him. People were still in trouble. He was still needed. Shiren wanted to act, but his body wouldn’t react. They needed his help. Gravity shifted as he was passed to someone. Sita said something about finding a healer. His vision dimmed as he watched Sita’s back run away from him.

    “Don’t…” He wanted her to stay with him. Stay safe. He tried to finish what he was saying but coughed up blood and his voice died in his throat. He was tired. Maybe he could take a small rest. Shakar shook him, trying to keep him awake, “Stay with me.” He kept saying, “You did great, Shiren, just stay with me.”

    “Did…” He coughed again. It was getting harder to talk, “Did I get them all?” He was weak, so weak. But people needed him. He needed to act. Shakar laughed softly. His voice was sad as he carried Shiren, “Yea. You won. Just stay awake, Shiren. Sasha will fix you right up.” Shiren wanted to. He wanted to get back on his feet and fight but he knew it wasn’t going to happen. He was bleeding out, dying. Shiren drifted away and the world around him faded into blackness.

    A small shake pulled him back from the darkness. He couldn’t see. Where was he? He was in someone’s lap. Who? Shiren struggled to see, forcing his vision to clear. A face appeared above him. White hair, beautiful green eyes filled with tears. ‘Sasha…’ She was crying for him. Why? His chest felt heavy. Other people were with him. He looked down at his loved ones. Maylin...Aidyn…Sita…even Rynn…they were all there, watching and crying for him. Maylin had her head against his chest, holding his hand as she cried. Sita sat next to her holding his vest close to her chest. Aidyn said something…about a life spell. Rynn hugged her chest as Sasha shook her head and pulled Shiren closer. She was out. They were all out of life spells.

    It was almost… amusing for him to go out like this. He laughed weakly and they looked at him, confused. A smile slowly crawled over his face as they asked him what was funny, “At least…you’re safe…” He managed to whisper before a fit of coughing cut him off. He tasted copper and his vision slowly faded away from him. He was drifting away. It was getting harder to talk, harder to stay awake.

    ‘Not now. Please…’

    Shiren fought against the darkness. They had to know. He had to tell them… His body grew cold as feeling slipped away from him.

    ‘No. Please…just…just let me tell them…’

    His mouth opened, words trying to come out. His strength failed and the darkness enveloped him. He tried one last time, one last attempt to tell them what he felt before the world blacked and he fell into the darkness.

    “I love you.”
     
  7. Part Seven​


    What happens when you die? Does it hurt? Do you ascend to some greater place or does everything lose feeling and stay black forever? Shiren had often wondered this in his life. He wondered what would happen when his luck ran out and he finally couldn’t stand back up. He only remained standing because of his friends, family, and luck. He should have died countless times back then. Instead he stood and fought while others fell and died. He had tried to save them but it didn’t matter how hard he tried they still passed on. It was depressing. Shiren tried not to let it get to him. No, it only made him fight harder. Fight so that no one else would die while he still breathed. Though it hardly mattered now…

    White light filled the darkness around him. When it cleared, Shiren found himself standing on a stone path. Lush grass swayed gently in the soft spring breeze that drifted over the land. Where was he? The stone path lead up to beautiful golden gates and Shiren’s eyes widened. Sadness washed over him as he realized where he was.

    The Graveyard of Heroes: The place where all strong and courageous adventurers went after finally falling in battle. The humans of today called it Heaven. It might as well have been just that. Beautiful grassy fields, wooden cottages, anything anyone could ever want sat beyond those golden gates. The sadness within Shiren grew as he stared at the paradise before him. It didn’t have what Shiren wanted. It could not have what his heart desired most.

    A man stood at the gate to The Graveyard. He was tall and pale. His skin seemed almost translucent and he watched Shiren with dark sunken eyes. He wore dark, flowing robes and carried a large scythe just like the stories of today. But this man was different from the nightmare that he had become over the years. He was kind, not terrifying in the least. His eyes, though dark, regarded Shiren proudly. He seemed almost happy of Shiren’s accomplishments in life. He looked upon Shiren like a father, proud of his son for growing up.

    The Gatekeeper of the Graveyard bowed deeply in respect, “Welcome home, Shiren. I am honored to finally meet you. You have grown so much. Please,” The keeper motioned behind him and the gates opened smoothly, “Enter and finally rest. You have earned it.”

    Shiren was drawn to that paradise and his feet moved him forward almost automatically. He froze himself in mid step. No matter what people thought, no matter how many times he had thrown himself into seemingly hopeless situations, Shiren never wanted to die. He never wanted to leave his family, friends, or the people he loved. If he continued he would never see them again. The Graveyard wouldn’t have what he wanted. It couldn’t. It couldn’t contain the family that he had gained over the years. It wouldn’t have the loves of his life waiting for him with open arms. It had nothing for him and he didn’t want to stay in that place. It wasn’t a paradise to him. It was almost like a prison. He wanted to go back. He wanted to protect the loves of his life. He wanted to protect his family, even after death.

    The Gatekeeper smiled knowingly. It was almost like he could read Shiren’s mind and his heart. The keeper bowed deeply and the gates behind him slide shut, “I understand, Shiren. You will always be welcome here when you finally decide to rest. As you wish, you may return to Tyrra. I wish you eternal happiness.”

    Shiren’s heart leapt into his throat as the tears started to fall. He bowed in thanks to the keeper. He could never thank the keeper enough. A smile spread across his face as the familiar energy of his transform surged through him. The energy flowed and grew until it burst through his entire being and he awoke.

    The sky was black and filled with the smoke of battle and war. Everything seemed to stand out with detail. The world was vibrant and full of life. Energy flowed through his body and every nerve felt alive. He felt alive even though he knew he wasn’t. His heart no longer beat in his chest. It would always remind Shiren that he was no longer alive, that life was gone. His body groaned in pain as Shiren rolled over and looked at his surroundings. Where was he? Bits of the Beronis tavern lay thrown about the grassy field. He was where he had died, lying in the grass in front of The Widow Walk. He didn’t see any fighting. Had the war ended? Did they defeat The Beast and its armies? Did they win? Shiren smiled brightly and hope sprung into his chest. He could see everyone again…

    But it was short lived.

    Shiren turned to the sound of people yelling. Was there still fighting? Was he needed? The smile on his face vanished as he finally saw people he recognized. He saw a wild elf dressed in red and white with interlocking plate armor, Gizmo. He was attacking Chev…beating him to a bloody pulp. A gypsy in blue and purple, Enala, was trying to interfere. She kept screaming and clawing at Gizmo as they fought. Sasha watched in horror and begged Gizmo to stop. Glowing white elementals, Order, were holding Enala back and watching the fight escalate. Why was this happening?! Gizmo screamed and kicked at Chev as tears fell down his face. Sasha stepped in front of Chev, stopping Gizmo in his tracks, and yelled at him. She screamed and her eyes blazed with fury. Gizmo looked stunned. His mouth opened and closed as he tried to speak. Sasha and Enala picked Chev off the ground with their backs to Gizmo. A tear opened in space as Sasha and the others disappeared. Gizmo’s voice sounded hoarse as he shouted at the top of his lungs in pain.

    ‘No! No please! I…I just got back…’ Shiren gasped for air. His chest hurt like someone had torn out a part of his heart. He couldn’t breathe. Sasha was gone. She was gone and she wasn’t going to come back. Shiren cried, his body groaning in pain as he forced himself to stand up. Shiren had barely gone a few more steps when his world crumbled more. His gaze fell upon a fallen body, a woman, at his feet. Her silky shoulder length brown haired covered her beautiful face. Burns covered her body. She was lying over another body as if she had tried to defend it. Shiren still recognized both of them and another piece of his heart was stripped away.

    Maylin had died protecting her sister, Li Mei.

    It was too much. The world spun and Shiren fell to his knees. He had come back. He had come back to protect them and watch over them. But they were gone now. Where were Aidyn and Sita? Rynn? He started to become frantic. Someone had to be alive. He didn’t know what he would do if they weren’t. Shiren surged to his feet and began to search the city. Someone had to be alive. There had to be someone…

    It didn’t take him long to find Rynn. He barely recognized her through the wounds she had suffered. The only thing he recognized was her necklace, a beautiful turquoise necklace he had given her for her birthday, was still intact around her neck. Rynn had fallen to The Beast. She had fought to her last breath against the void. His legs threatened to give out on him but he couldn’t rest. He needed to find Aidyn or Sita. Shiren raced through the city looking in every building that still stood. It didn’t matter how long and hard he searched. He couldn’t find Aidyn or Sita. They were gone…or dead like the others.

    Shiren stopped where he had started, standing in the field covered with blood and bodies. He was alone. No one was left for him here. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs. He wanted to pound Gizmo into the dirt for forcing Sasha to leave. He wanted to do SOMETHING with all the anger and anguish rising in him. But he couldn’t move. His body trembled violently as he stood there. His mind spun and reeled as he slipped down the slopes of his cracking mind.

    “I’m sorry for your loss, Shiren.”

    That voice shook Shiren out of his madness. She couldn’t be alive. He stared at the woman that was now standing in front of him. She was covered in blood, bruises, and wounds from the constant fighting. Her long hair was matted with blood and her outfit and armor was barely holding together. Her silver glowing eyes regarded him sadly as she placed a hand on his shoulder. Shiren’s mouth opened and closed a few times before he could speak, “Ma’am…I thought…I thought you died at Ironpost…”

    His teacher smiled wearily at him, “Yes, well. It would take more than some elementals to defeat us, Shiren. You know that.” He tried to smile and failed. There wasn’t much to smile about anymore. His happiness had died with his loved ones. His teacher sighed, “Shiren, all is not lost. Their transforms could activate. They can still come back to you.” She touched his cheek, “But we must move on. It is time for the last part of your training.”

    Shiren nodded dumbly. He barely heard what she was saying. His teacher growled a little and slapped him across the face, “Shiren! What is our job?”

    He blinked slowly, his face burning where she had slapped him, “To…To protect the people of Tyrra…”

    “Exactly. Are you still standing?”

    He nodded slowly.

    “Then you still have a job to do. Come, we need to complete your training. Tyrra is going to need us.”

    Shiren felt his teacher wrap her arms around his waist and he used her support to keep his legs moving long after they wanted to give up. She was right. He still had a job to do. There were still people that needed protecting, needed him. Maybe Aidyn and Sita weren’t dead. Maybe Maylin would transform and join him. Maybe Sasha would see him from time to time. He hoped for all this against the damage that had been done to his heart. He knew he would never be the same but he had to move on. People needed him. His master said something quietly, smiling slightly at him.

    He looked at her, confused, “What was that?”

    Her smile grew, “My name, Shiren. That is my name.”

    He stared at her and started to laugh. He laughed until he couldn’t take anymore and began to cry as the emotions and anguish he had bottled up finally released and rushed forward.

    They had won the war. However the cost had been great and would change Tyrra forever.

    No one had realized what The Beast had done until it was too late. The war with the elementals had been a diversion and hid the real threat. The Beast, void incarnate, was after the lay lines that covered Tyrra. It devoured them in an attempt to completely destroy Tyrra. It had succeeded in its goals, but the results weren’t what the creature expected. Tyrra, just like any other plane of existence, couldn’t be destroyed. It could be damaged and all life on it killed but the plane and Tyrra would still exist. The Beast had destroyed Tyrra’s connection to the elemental planes, damaging Tyrra beyond repair. When it realized that it could not destroy Tyrra utterly, it came to Beronis to begin killing off its inhabitants. And it was there that it met its downfall. The adventurers and nobles of Beronis sent the creature back to its plane using the crystals that powered the portals to the docks. The combined power, as well as power from Time, created a portal that sent The Beast back to its plane and locked it away.

    Many had died in the process and some were unable to return to Tyrra after everything. With the connections to the planes gone, the elements that created Tyrra became weaker. Death still existed but people could no longer return to Tyrra. The other elements existed as well but in lesser degrees. The elementals and those with elemental transforms were banished back to their planes and would never again walk on Tyrra. Those that had elemental transforms but sided with Tyrra escaped the banishment. With the elements and lay lines gone, celestial magic ceased to exist. The power that fueled celestial spells was stripped away and left the studiers and casters of that school powerless. But Tyrra’s power still flowed and so people turned to it for comfort. With magic still in the world, times didn’t change much. There were changes, of course, and if they had been noticed sooner perhaps Tyrra could have been saved.

    People relied too heavily on Tyrra’s magic. Some abused the power and undead started to show up everywhere. Eventually, Tyrra grew annoyed and tired of the abuse and withdrew her powers from Tyrrans. With no magic, people began to turn on each other. Fae and the non elemental planes that existed left Tyrra alone and withdrew into themselves, trying to keep the old ways alive. Everyone blamed everyone else for what had happened. With the lay lines gone and Tyrra withdrawn into herself, she began to break apart and become the continents of today. Eventually, the races just separated and returned home. The elves left to their forest homelands and refused to travel outside them. The Dark Elves disappeared underground and the dwarves returned to their mountains. The Mystics took shelter on Fae and held onto the old times as the world changed around them. The Gorbe returned to their desert homeland of Myrr. The races that were left were forced to face a much darker world.

    Human’s stubborn adaptation proved to be the key point in their survival. Humans changed with the world and began to expand to new territories. Unfortunately, human’s life spans were too short and they were spread too far to remember the old ways. So as time went on, the old ways slowly were forgotten. Tyrra went by a new name now, Earth, after the name of the energy that used to flow through her. Magic faded into myth as people turned to cities like Beronis and their technology. The tinkerer’s of old became known as Scientists. Some of the world’s most famous scientists were either men or women from the forgotten age or their descendants. As the old times went away, so did the races of the land. Scavengers became myths and tales of monsters. The Half Orcs and Ogres were killed off, viewed as creatures created by an otherworldly power. Elves vanished as the forests disappeared and the Dark Elves’ homeland was destroyed by mining. No one saw the Dwarves after they vanished though stories still cropped up of mountain men and hermits. Gorbe thrived for a while, revered as godly creatures by their ignorant human neighbors. After a while, however, even they had to go into hiding and vanish from the world.

    Some races never faded, merely dwindled as humans began to overtake all of Tyrra. Gypsies and Hoblings managed to mingle among the humans, claiming to be nomads or merely deformed humans. Biata, Barbarians, and Wild Elves managed to live in their lands peacefully for awhile. By the time humans had found them they had forgotten the races and called them Indians and Native Americans. Time took care of the rest. And all the while The Defenders protected and watched the world. The fantastic creatures of Tyrra didn’t vanish suddenly. They still lived and roamed about the world. And because of that, The Defenders were still needed.

    ‘What will happen when the world no longer needs us?’

    Shiren finished his drink in one gulp at the thought. He remembered countless wars and battles. Conflicts happened over things as petty as land or oil. It all seemed pointless to him. But this was his life. His loved ones still visited him and kept what was left of his sanity intact. Maylin and Li Mei were now a part of The Defenders. Sita and Rynn visited him from time to time at his cottage in the forests of Germany. It was his home and haven for anyone from the old age. So far away from human contact that he sometimes believed he had gone back in time to when things were simpler. Aidyn used to visit him but she vanished as time went on. Something about not being human enough to exist in this world. He had tried to look for her but with no luck. Sasha visited him as well and did what she could to keep Shiren from fading away with time. That was the problem with transforms. As time went on, things became less important. Memories and emotions fell away to what you were ascended to do. But he had ascended for one reason, to keep them safe. He would never move on as long as they existed. Shiren never wanted to forget how he felt about them and how important they were to his life.

    The storm outside thundered and growled at the city. It must have moved on from the city he had just left. How long had he been sitting here trapped in his memories?

    Maylin’s voice drifted through his head, ‘Cynda has picked up reports of Succubae in Cincinnati…Are you in?’

    Shiren sat quietly for a moment staring at the necklaces still in his hand. He gave them a kiss before putting them away, grabbing his hat, and paying for his drink.

    ‘Shiren?’

    ‘Yea. I’ll see you there.’

    The rain drenched everything it touched as Shiren walked out of the bar into the dark city streets. He sighed and let the rain fall on him, it felt good. Reality shifted around Shiren as he vanished into thin air.

    ‘Time to go to work…’
     
  8. That's it really. Lemme know what you think
     

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